Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Break Through The Mental Barriers Of Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” – John Stuart Mill

Something pretty spectacular happened in the Boston Marathon the other day. Perhaps you heard about it. Geoffrey Mutai, of Kenya, won the 2011 Boston Marathon on Monday (April 18, 2011) with the fastest marathon time in history – 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 2 seconds. The fact that the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) won’t recognize the time as an official world record because of the overall down slope of the 26.2 mile course, doesn’t make the accomplishment any less spectacular in my estimation.

It’s difficult for me to fathom that Mr. Mutai ran 26.2 miles at about 4 minutes and 40 seconds per mile. Wow. The last and perhaps only time I remember running a clocked mile was while training for football in high school many years ago. My single mile time came in at 7:47. Pretty pathetic. I was never much of a long distance runner. My 40 time on the other hand was a stingy 4.6 seconds. Not bad for a 6 foot 8 inch guy.

All this running stuff made me think of Roger Bannister, who in 1954 was the first person to run a sub four minute mile. It was a tremendous accomplishment. One that’s been replicated hundreds of times since. But at the time, the four minute mile was a substantial barrier – as much a mental one as physical. It was considered such a monumental feat that Sports Illustrated selected Roger Bannister as its inaugural Sportsman of the Year in 1955.

Innovation isn’t all that different from certain athletic accomplishments. In order to do or create great things, you have to believe that it can be done - think Roger Bannister’s sub four minute mile, Tony Hawk’s 900, Travis Pastrana’s double backflip, and more. Innovation requires a belief in what is possible - think airplanes, computers, landing on the moon, the iPod, and more. When people believe, and then do, it opens the door for the rest of us.

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