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Innovation is like cycling: it is all about balance

By Antonno Versteeg - Last updated: Monday, July 27, 2015

Learning to cycle is something that is hard, needs perseverance and might include a few painful crashes along the way. But after a while things will become easier and when the brain has learnt how to balance and push the pedals, this skill is almost impossible to ‘unlearn’. In a sense, successful innovation is similar. It is hard to learn, it is definitely not something that will go right the first time and some failures might be pretty painful. However, after having established the correct processes and having built the right capabilities, it will become easier and easier to keep momentum and stay balanced.

Cycling is all about balance. Using both legs together harmoniously will result in the bicycle moving forward and becoming stable and balanced. In innovation we see a similar phenomenon – a balanced forward movement if two key forces are in sync. One driving force is the process to fulfil unmet customer or consumer needs (often called human- or use- centred innovation), or even propose completely new meanings (design-driven-innovation as coined by Roberto Verganti). The other key force propelling us forward is technological innovation. By providing new technologies that are smaller, faster and better, the technical innovation ‘leg’ is enabling completely new experiences and is therefore closely interlinked with the ‘needs’ leg. Combining the two in a cyclical and continuous way will get the most power to the rear wheel resulting in speed.

So who is steering these processes? Who is controlling where we go? It is very important that innovation power is applied correctly and is steered in the right direction. A proper understanding of the context of your business and market is crucial. Having a view of developments in the future is vital to avoid pitfalls. Visioning and scenario planning are methods that can be used to allow you to create a clear picture of your destination. To reach this destination safely a clear process and efficient organisational structure needs to be established.

As avid cyclists will know, besides a very handy skill to have, cycling also brings an amazing sense of freedom. Innovation will boost your company culture in a similar way. Let’s start the journey now!


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AuthorAntonno Versteeg


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