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Innovation is like Getting Punched in the Face Sixty Times.

on August 2, 2011
Blog Managing Change

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.


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