Innovation is like Getting Punched in the Face Sixty Times.

on August 2, 2011

I recently started boxing to get in shape. Yesterday, I sparred with the instructor for the first time. I got hit directly in the face at least 60 times and landed three punches of my own. Leaving the gym exhausted and somewhat humiliated, I thought, “I should just stick with the things I’m good at.  Why am I putting myself out here like this?”

It dawned on me that sticking my neck out in the boxing gym was kind of like sticking it out at work. Innovation requires it. Sometimes you get hit, but you rarely get knocked out.

I believe that innovation is a practice that requires rigorous research and methods to make sound choices about the future. But innovations – whether they’re products, services, or processes – are not puzzles that can be solved simply by finding all of the pieces and putting them together in the right way.  Innovation is more mysterious than that.  It often requires making “gut” decisions.  Ultimately, innovation rigor is meant to inform and guide the intuitions of a team.

In boxing, good technique and physical conditioning give you the opportunity to land punches.  But in the heat of the fight, you need to rely on your intuition, wits, reflexes, and guts to win.

Sticking your neck out takes guts – and can be fun!  You always learn something, even if it leaves you a little sore.

Related Content:

Top Trends in the Business Marketplace for the New Year


  • Timothy Grayson

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re right on the mark. Some challenges are like puzzles or riddles. You don’t know what the answer is, but there is one–and probably only one. Innovation is more of a mystery. You also don’t know the answer, but there are a multitude of possible answers. And probably, the ultimately “right” answer is one that develops or evolves out of the actions, etc.

    Just like in boxing, probably not best to lead with your chin though… 🙂

    (For more similar thinking, check me out at


Developing Leaders and Managers

Insights to your Inbox

Get how-to's and proven practices to make change easy.