Tag Archives: sports

Testing My Personal Limits with Innovation

Physiclo Basketball Resistance Tights

A few months ago I came across an article in Engadget about Physiclo, a startup company launched to provide resistance clothing for athletes. I’m assuming their name Phyisclo is a mashup of the words physical + clothing. Cute.

As a basketball player for which height and youth are not advantages (I’m about 5’8” and a bit past my 21st birthday – just how far past you’ll have to guess), endurance, guile, and a reliable mid-range game are about the only advantages on the court I can hope for.

Given that, in the past I’ve tried ankle weights and weight vests as ways to try and increase my speed, quickness and vertical leaping abilities. From experience I can tell you that ankle weights will injure you and weight vests can be uncomfortable. Jump shoes always seemed dangerous as well, and so after a while I went back to just playing basketball without any gadgets and began readjusting to the idea that I might never be able to increase my athleticism, only my fitness.

But after seeing an article about Physiclo and their resistance clothing for athletes, and thinking through the value proposition both as an athlete and as an innovation professional, I started to think it was worth investigating. I was intrigued because the Physiclo offering is not some wonky gadget that required me to change my behavior, but instead allows me to wear something I was already wearing – compression tights.

So I reached out to the company and began corresponding with the company, and a few weeks later a pair of Physiclo compression tights for me and a pair of Physiclo compression shorts for my grade school AAU basketball playing daughter arrived in the mail (there is your full disclosure). We had every intention of setting a baseline for baseline to baseline speed and vertical leaping ability and to measure every 30 days over a 90 day period, but our local YMCA closed and moved to a new facility after the 30 day measurement and the court size changed and we lost our vertical leap measurement board on the wall. I can tell you that at the 30 day mark we were both getting modestly faster after 30 days, but neither of us recorded any improvement in vertical leaping ability. This was even with a week gap in our workout regimes during that first 30 days because of a family vacation.

Physiclo basketball Dribble

Qualitatively, the first week I wore the Physiclo resistance tights to play 60-90 minutes of basketball (per gym visit) they kicked my ass (to use a technical term) and the same was true after a week of vacation (which ended up meaning nearly a two week gap for me). I got winded easier, my leg muscles fatigued faster, and were more sore afterward than without wearing the Physiclo tights. It took me about a week initially and after vacation to get used to the extra demands they put on my body again. After that, post Physiclo workout fatigue and soreness was the same as without Physiclo, and I felt like my body adjusted and my in game performance only decreased slightly. One other benefit I noticed from Physiclo was that after wearing them for a week or two I was able to power up the hills of downtown Seattle that used to feel like more of a struggle.

My daughter also says she feels the extra effort required when she wears them in practice/training and I’ve seen her get faster in games (when she doesn’t wear her free Physiclo resistance shorts – men’s extra small). She moves better than she used to, and the other girls get tired before she does.

And for me, the impact of wearing my Physiclo resistance tights (sent to me for free) is that I have yet to play without them because every time I think about doing it so I can blow by people, that thought is overpowered by the thought that I won’t get as much out of that workout. So, on goes Physiclo.

I reached out to the Physiclo founders because their invention looked like a potential innovation suitable for profiling to the innovation community here.

As a reminder, my definition of innovation is as follows:

“Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into widely-adopted solutions valued above every existing alternative.”

Is Physiclo an innovation?

Absolutely!

For anyone looking to get faster or to get more out of any workout or training that involves running, I can’t think of a more practical and effective training aid. Prices are in the $100-130 range and are available on the Physiclo web site.

Four thumbs up!

Image credit: Physiclo.com

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What April Fool’s Day Teaches Us About Innovation

What April Fool's Day Teaches Us About Innovation

April Fool’s Day was this week. Did anyone have a good prank played on them or come across a good corporate April Fool’s?

My favorite this year was from my alma mater, the University of Oregon. Go Ducks!

We try to think a little differently at the University of Oregon and specialize in helping the world run a little faster (and more comfortably), and with some of Nike’s founder behind the football team, why shouldn’t they have the world’s most advanced field, say, an LED field?

Watch the video:

The best corporate April Fool’s Day pranks are the ones that are believable and almost seem feasible.

What does this tell us as innovation professionals?

The insight is that the best corporate April Fool’s Day pranks find a resonance point, a place where the outlandish intersects with what people are ready for, what they may actually desire, and what they believe should be possible soon.

Consider asking your innovation teams to design their own April Fool’s Day prank and see where it takes you.

Ask yourself questions like these about their designs:

  • What must be true for this to be possible?
  • What stands in the way of this being possible?
  • What would it take to remove the barriers that are preventing this from being possible?
  • Are our customers truly ready for this?
  • What would it take to prepare them for it?
  • What capabilities do we need to build to prepare for this eventuality?
  • Is this idea more feasible in a different context? (i.e. basketball courts instead of football fields)
  • Etc.

One final thought…

Is there any reason why the field shown in the University of Oregon LED field video couldn’t become a reality?

Why couldn’t it be built out of some of kind of fiber optic material that maintained both the sports performance characteristics and the multi-color transmission capabilities?

Would it be easy to design such a thing? No. But it seems possible, and that’s where innovation begins…

Keep innovating!

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Powering Monday Night Football with Feet?

Shell Kinetic Soccer Field in BrazilElectricity.

It’s not exactly cheap, and in rapidly modernizing countries (or even U.S. municipalities with budget woes) the idea of illuminating a neighborhood soccer field so kids and adults can play at night (especially in a poorer neighborhood), might seem like an impossibility.

But a couple of weeks ago Pelé (the Brazilian soccer player) and Shell (the global oil – ahem energy company) this week showed off a soccer revolution, a field located in the heart of Morro da Mineira, a Rio de Janeiro favela, capable of capturing the kinetic energy created by the movement of players around the field and combining it with nearby solar power to provide a source of renewable electricity for lighting the field.

The field uses two hundred high-tech, underground tiles to capture the energy created by players running around the field, along with energy created by solar panels next to the field and stores it in batteries next to the field. These new floodlights provides the players with a lit field and everyone else in the favela a safe and secure community area at night.

Until it was redeveloped by Shell, the soccer field was largely unusable and many young people were forced to play in the streets. The Morro da Mineira project shows how creative ideas delivered through committed partnerships can shape neighborhoods and transform communities.

The effort is a component of the Shell #makethefuture program, which endeavors to inspire entrepreneurs and young people to see science and engineering as potential career choices, and hopes to inspire both to use their minds to develop energy solutions for our planet’s future. The kinetic technology used at the soccer field was developed by a UK Shell LiveWIRE grant, which is designed to be a catalyst for young students and entrepreneurs seeking to grow promising ideas into viable and sustainable businesses.

Could we someday see a World Cup match lit by the players or maybe even a Monday Night Football game?

Only time, and a continued commitment to advancements in renewable energy generation and storage, will tell.

For other interesting kinetic energy inventions (and potential innovations), continue reading here (link broken).

Image Source: Treehugger


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Innovation is Up in the Air

Innovation is Up in the AirA while back on the drive home from the Seattle-Tacoma airport (SEA) after a trip where I served as an innovation speaker at an event, I noticed a large building by the side of the freeway advertising Indoor Sky Diving. The sign peaked my curiosity to investigate what indoor sky diving could possibly mean and so I set up a visit with iFly Seattle co-founder Lysa Adams.

My visit surfaced three key innovation-related concepts I would like to discuss:

  • Challenging Orthodoxies
  • Changing Perspectives
  • Tunnel Vision

1. Challenging Orthodoxies

Rowan and I talk a lot here on Innovation Excellence about how challenging orthodoxies is one way to identify insights to drive innovation efforts, and it made me wonder:

Have they successfully challenged the skydiving orthodoxies that you need the following to experience the thrill of skydiving or ‘flying’?

  • To jump out of an airplane
  • To carry and deploy a parachute
  • To learn several parachuting skills before progressing to sky diving

What if you could experience experience sky diving without the parachute and the airplane and the training?

Well, after my visit it was clear that iFly and SkyVenture have successfully challenged these orthodoxies with the indoor flying centers they’ve built here in Seattle and 22 other locations around the world including Hollywood, Dubai, and Singapore.

The facility itself seemed to be well-designed, recycling the air through two fan-driven intersecting circles of air that are accelerated from about 30mph through the basement up to 100-160 mph through the chamber up and back around again. Integrated into the space around the necessary apparatus are meeting rooms for corporate team-building events and party rooms for private functions. Organizations as diverse as Microsoft, Boeing, and the military have used the facility. It’s a pretty a cool facility and it was even a fair amount of fun just to watch others fly from the integrated viewing area.

So what is indoor skydiving and how can you experience the thrill of skydiving and ‘flying’ without the plane or the parachute? Well here is a video that shows an amateur learning the basic skills in their first session:

In a vertical wind tunnel people are able to fly in any of the four different skydiving positions – stomach, back, sitting, and head down (after mastering the previous one) – supported by wind speeds typically of 100 miles per hour or higher (an indoor hurricane). The vertical wind tunnel at iFly Seattle is state of the art, allowing wind speeds of up to 160 miles per hour.

I had the opportunity to learn how to fly and try it out for a couple of minutes, and I looked pretty much like the novices in the video above. I was flying successfully by my second minute, floating up beyond the reach of the instructor temporarily, and never felt any of the fear I might have felt if I had done my ‘flying’ by jumping out of an airplane. It was an amazing experience, and I could see how it could be very addictive.

So other than challenging orthodoxies, what does any of this have to do with innovation?

2. Changing Perspectives

Innovation often comes from looking at things from a different perspective, or from observing something potentially valuable to your target customers in another context that you can adapt and bring to them as a new solution offering.

This change in perspective can come from using creativity tools like Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ or other tools like mind mapping, brainstorming, brainwriting, SCAMPER, SIT, or from building and tapping into a Global Sensing Network.

Or it can come from physically changing your orientation. In the case of sky diving, sometimes sky diving teams have to get down on their bellies on wheelie boards on the concrete to show each other the tricks they plan to do in the air or in the vertical wind tunnel. It’s hard for the brain to imagine in a vertical orientation what is going to take place in a horizontal orientation, and this simple physical shift makes all the difference.

If it doesn’t come natural to our brains to imagine the horizontal from the vertical, imagine the trouble our brains have imagining different business contexts without being immersed in them. We often have to go see the other context for ourselves as a result, but a Global Sensing Network can help avoid this need to some extent. But this requirement to see things for ourselves highlights something very important. Because changing perspectives presents a challenge for our human brains, it presents an opportunity for us to work to achieve competitive separation.

Imagine the competitive advantage your organization could build over the other organizations in your context if you could build up your perception shifting muscles to recognize the relevant challenges and opportunities in other geographies and contexts faster than the competition?

3. Tunnel Vision

Do you remember what is like the first time you learned to drive a car? Do you remember how much you had to focus on every little detail from how hard you were pushing the accelerator to how fast you were moving the steering wheel left or right? But how much attention do you pay to these things now?

Innovation BlindersIt came to me as I was staring at the vertical wind tunnel and talking with Lysa Adams about the challenges that beginners have when they learn to jump out of a plane and deploy a parachute, that when it comes to the human brain we have tunnel vision while learning a new skill. This tunnel vision, caused by our lack of experience, causes us to focus on a very small subset of parameters in the environment and makes it impossible for us to notice a lot of the other things going on around us or to focus our attention more broadly.

When it comes to innovation, most organizations suffer from innovation tunnel vision because as they look to involve more employees in their innovation efforts, they don’t give their employees the opportunity to learn and practice new innovation skills. Instead in many organizations we expect employees to just be innovative.

When it comes to creativity skills that tap into our right brain capacity, it is important to remember that as we master right brain skills they move to the left brain. And, when your left brain is occupied, then the right brain can go into a more creative mode. This is why you have many of your most creative ideas in the shower, or while you are driving, etc.

When the left brain is occupied it is less likely to intervene and criticize the ideas your right brain comes up with while they are embryonic and partially formed and kill them before you develop them further. When the left brain is not jumping in and trying to determine whether the ideas are logical or not, the right brain can focus on pure creativity.

This is why it is so important to create things like a common language of innovation, a shared innovation vision/strategy/goals, and to have a structured innovation process. If these things are all very clearly understood across the organization, then your innovation tunnel vision opens up a bit wider to allow you to identify more relevant insights and come up with better ideas. But you can’t stop there. If you want to engage all employees in innovation in your organization (or even a subset), and you want to open up the innovation tunnel vision in your organization even wider, then you must provide innovation training to every employee in the organization (or your chosen subset).

The faster you can get your employees to a level of comfort with your innovation language, vision/strategy/goals, process, and tools, the sooner they will be driving innovation with their knees, eating a Big Mac, and changing your innovation soundtrack – all with the windows down letting in new stimulus and fresh air into your innovation efforts.

Every organization has innovation tunnel vision, the question is how wide or narrow your field of vision is and how much you’re doing to pry the blinders farther apart.

Conclusion

We all are innovative in our own way, which is why I created the Nine Innovation Roles. But at the same time, we all have a certain level of innovation capacity, and if we develop that capacity we can achieve much more. If you want to get better at innovation as an individual or as an organization, you must learn new skills and you must practice them. Otherwise you will be an innovation belly flier forever. Thanks to Darren (my instructor at iFly Seattle – who used to be involved with Cirque du Soleil) and to Lysa Adams I was able to fly for the first time, but if I want to progress to back flying or sit flying on the way to head down flying and doing tricks, I must practice – in the same way that you must practice innovation in your organization. To conclude, I’ll leave you with this video of one of the instructors showing off and some team flying:

If you ever get the chance to try out indoor skydiving or ‘flying’, I highly recommend it as an amazing, fun experience. The cost runs about $60 for some basic instruction and a couple of instructor monitored flights (without the whole parachute or jumping out of the plane part). Happy innovating (or flying)!

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