Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Innovation Is Afoot

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.” – Steve Prefontaine

In one of its most recent innovations, Nike went off the standard innovation grid. Or rather it created it - The Nike Grid that is.

In addition to my regular posts for the Front End of Innovation, I sporadically contribute an occasional post to my own blog sites – including The Future of Board Games (which is obviously related to my work with Big E Toys) and Gonzo Innovation (which is largely about social innovation and other immersive innovation techniques). I mention these other blogs only because Nikegrid.com reminded me of a post from The Future of Board Games entitled Board In The City, which I wrote back in September 2007.

Beginning on October 22, 2010 (and lasting 15 days) Nike turned London into an urban board game by breaking down the city into a grid of 48 postal codes. Runners/Players participating in the game competed with one another and as teams by starting runs at various phone booths throughout the city, dialing a specific number, punching in an ID code, and then following instructions to find the next location. The more phone booths from which a runner checked in, the more points he or she earned.

Specific challenges made the race akin to a scavenger hunt by enabling players to gain extra points, as well as virtual badges for various activities or achievements. In September 2007, it was in the context of a scavenger hunt as part of the Board In The City post that I wrote:

“Scavenger hunts have been around for a long, long time, but still I believe they are a harbinger of things to come. They’re relatively easy to put together and can be quite fun, and no doubt will become increasingly more complex and varied in the years to come. Especially given the technology that exists today – cell phone, camera phones, text messaging, GPS, and more – it seems quite reasonable that such games will get more and more sophisticated with more and more coordination and variation. There is obviously no actual board to speak of. The board is the neighborhood, the mall, or the city. I have to believe at some point, someone, somewhere will actually formalize rules for such a game, complete with technology variations and scoring systems.”

Well done Nike. You’ve found a way to effectively combine exercise, fun, competition, technology, social networking, and more. Participants absolutely loved The Nike Grid.

Prefontaine’s words could just as easily be applied to innovation. “It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.”

Well done indeed.

If you’re interested in hearing more about The Nike Grid from a first-person point of view, read this post from participant James Spalding.

As Rhys Rose writes on the Nike Grid Facebook page - “So Nike, the question on everyone’s lips is when is the next one?”

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