Highly Skilled People
A Supportive Infrastructure
Skills - whether in basketball or business it is obvious that winners attract winners. So recruiting of highly skilled people is clearly easier for teams that have a consistent record of winning. But it is not that simple. In pro sports there is a laudable attempt to level the playing field by the order of the annual draft. Even so as time goes by teams with the right track record tend to come out on top. Still win – loss records and championships are not enough to ensure a “dynasty.” Coaches do matter, and it is there to see in the performance of coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Lute Olson, Bob Knight and other top flight colleagues.
The difference is the dedication of coaches (and leaders) to maximize the performance of each individual. I talked about that with Curt Giles an outstanding member of the fabulous 1980 USA Olympic hockey team and coach of the Edina, Minnesota’s hockey team -- a perennial powerhouse: “Coach, what is the hardest thing you have to teach,” I asked. “Consistency,” he replied. “Consistency comes from an attitude and a willingness to work hard.” Practice.
And just so it is with innovation. You learn innovation from practice. You may draw inspiration from talks and charts, but you learn by doing. Not many business leaders or business organizations provide the opportunity for, much less the insistence on, practicing innovation.
Innovators, like athletes, have varying degrees of innate skills at finding ways to meet new challenges, to find novel solutions to the situations they face. And that skill improves with each success they have at solving problems before them, at meeting challenges and seeing the possibilities of opportunities that arise.
Some of that is luck. I am a great believer in luck. But luck seems to come most often in the path of those who practice, practice, practice. The task of the leader is to give people, each individual, the opportunity, and to be adamant in their pursuit of solutions to that opportunity. The four ways - I call them the four “Ps” - are practice, such as Total Quality Management teams, seizing the possibility of turning necessity into opportunity, gaining perspective by working on problems outside their main endeavors and gaining perspective, especially through collaborative projects.
The leader can have no greater thrill than seeing people capitalize on and improve their skills by making the improbably become reality. And like the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team, achieve the improbable.