Saturday, November 15, 2008

2 Keys

Over the past 2 days I have watched my younger daughter compete with her high school volleyball team in the State Tournament. They won convincingly in the quarter finals and lost a close match in the semis. She was not a happy camper! But she did recover quickly and is already talking about and planning for spring club volleyball and next year’s high school season. (She has 2 more years of high school ahead.)

While watching the games I begin to notice, what I think are the keys to success in the game of volleyball. You might find this surprising as I don’t even know all of the rules to the game! But that has never kept me from expressing an opinion before. So here it goes:

Key #1- Performing the routine plays consistently.
Key #2- Innovating successfully when the plays are not routine.

Duh! More easily said than done! And, as you knew I would point out, this observation dovetails very well with success in business.

I have posted in the past about fundamentals and how mastering them yields success. This is really what Key # 1 is all about. Do the basics well! And how do we do that? Plan and practice, there is no other way. Plan how you want your “play” to happen, and then practice it until it is second nature. At our office, for example, we try to anticipate our clients’ wants and needs and then plan our “plays” to meet or exceed those expectations. Not surprisingly, most clients’ wants and needs are similar…so we prepare our basic plays to get the job done exceedingly well.

But what about the plays that are not routine? The tip in volleyball that causes us to feel out of position, the block that is right back on us before we have time to react, are examples of plays in which we must innovate to succeed. We cannot get our feet under us and make a good pass, or get in position for a kill, we must respond to the situation quickly with innovative reflex. Just keep the ball alive until we can get back to the routine.

In business, the “non-routine” can happen in any number of ways. Economic downturns, a supplier mistake, an unusual need/want from a customer, are just a few examples of situations when we must respond innovatively. Just keep the ball alive until we can get back to the routine! So how should we plan for innovation? In my opinion, by practicing the fundamentals repeatedly, innovative opportunities will readily present themselves…and therefore we can “practice” innovation. This may sound like an oxymoron. How can we “practice innovation”? By putting ourselves through the routine enough times, the “non-routine” will naturally occur just due to the law of averages. Nothing happens the same way every time.

Also, by reading, studying, and researching the non-routine events we can actually gain “virtual” experience. Again, in my opinion, virtual experience is the best type of experience as it allows you to not actually experiment with “live fire” but experiment in the controlled environment of your own mind. What have others experienced in similar environments? How did they respond? What worked and what didn’t?

Key #1- Routine….planning and practice makes perfect….consistent repeatability.

Key #2- Innovation…again, routine practice and virtual experience gives you the opportunity to respond to the “non-routine” in a routinely innovative way (routinely innovative…another oxymoron…I am on a roll….).