Silly me! I thought I had complete control over the television remote during the 2016 Euro Cup since the Netherlands didn't qualify. But I should have known better. Being the wife of a football fanatic (or soccer to all of you Americans out there) means that we now cheer for our country neighbors Belgium and Germany. We are in the third week of the championship and I have accepted my fate to watch the games. ?

Following the sport I can’t help but notice similarities and draw parallels between innovation management and football.

5 Innovation Management Lessons Learned from Football

  1. Scoring requires direction and goal posts.

    As a football player you continuously have to keep your eye on both the ball and the goal. Only when you have possession and that window opens for a clear shot do you kick the ball into the goal. This same core concept applies to innovation management: your innovation must be tightly aligned with corporate strategy for the innovation to ultimately reach its goal. Without alignment, you can give your innovation a shot, but you won’t score and you’ll miss the opportunity to create value for the company.

  2. It’s all about winning!

    No one likes to lose, and scoring more than the opponent is always the end-game. If you want your company to be the industry leader, it’s essential to stay ahead of the market and the competition. That means you need to keep scoring and keep innovating to be the best player on the field. In this hyper-competitive age, there is no time to slow down or you’ll be passed by someone else.

  3. Ball possession is paramount.

    When your competitors don’t have the ball, they cannot score. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately in the “real world” you can’t prevent your opponents from innovating. What you can do is focus on delivering unique innovations that differentiate your organization and products or services from the competition, so that even if they have a chance at scoring, your dominant position in the industry keeps you in possession of the consumers.

  4. Tiki-taka: short passing and movement.

    Football is a team sport. So is innovation. Make sure you pass the ball around and kick the ball to team members before kicking it to the other side. Communication and feedback is important in the innovation cycle, from ideation to launch and on to in-market management. Don’t be afraid to connect with people who have worked with similar innovations or are subject matter experts.

  5. Timing is everything.

    If you’re too slow you can give the opponent a chance to score. If you’re too fast your momentum may cause you to fumble the ball or misaim your shot. Acting, moving, innovating at the right time is essential. Being first to an immature market can be dangerous and being late to market can be downright detrimental. When launching a product or service to the market, timing really is everything.

Who would have thought that football and innovation management had so much in common? Taking these five lessons learned and applying them to your day-to-day activities may just kick start your innovation success. Are your customers chanting about your company being “on fire” just as this young guy about Will Grigg? (This links to the hilarious parody that went viral and became one of the most popular football chants at the competition; an official dance remix has even found its way to No 7 in the iTunes UK Top 100). Start winning with your innovations today and become an industry leader! Because let’s be honest, only losers say that winning isn’t everything.

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