There’s No Finish Line to Innovation

There’s this mysterious place called the Innovation Kitchen. I believe it just might be one of the most fascinating places on earth. It’s in Beaverton, Oregon and a certain breed of swoosh scientists buzz around the Innovation Kitchen to develop top-secret formulas that make the invisible world visible and create the unbelievable. They are simply obsessed with the notion of “What If” . . .

Nike is no longer a company that sells shoes and although I could easily argue they’re a progressive technology company, due to what I’ve witnessed over this past week, the fact is they’re much more than that too. Nike has found a way to attract, retain and foster a community of talent that consistently welcomes adversity and insists on disruption in effort to innovate. The swoosh represents the unique DNA of innovation-obsessed people who have found purpose in living the brand. There is no finish line for the tight-knit group of 35k+ individuals. Finish lines are a means to an end but innovation never stops. It’s a process. The “What If’ seems to be what makes them tick.

Awhile back, I recognized some trends in the way my company and I innovate so I mapped out our Process of Innovation. If applied to the Nike system, here’s where things fall into place:

  • Intent: It all starts with intent. Intentions set the stage for the rest of the process and they determine whether your idea gains influence and inspires others to want to mass-adopt your idea which ultimately leads to innovation. What is Nike’s intent for wanting to innovate? Nike’s mission statement is to “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”.
  • Idea – Obviously you need an idea in order to innovate. And I’ve learned there are such things as bad ideas. We’ve all witnessed these. Often times the innovation process starts over at this stage and redirects you to check back in at the intent phase. How many times did Thomas Edison fail and start over? (Here’s the answer.) I assume consumers have only seen 5% of the ideas cooked up in the Innovation Kitchen. Recently, Nike had the idea to intersect sport, data & socialization. So they basically created a scoreboard for life. Quite the idea.
  • Influence – The idea must have influence behind it in effort to reach more people. The Nike athletes and social sharing features, so consumers can influence each other via social platforms, all inject influence right out of the gate. Influence fuels the idea and gives it velocity. The next step is the true test if innovation will spark.
  • Inspire – Once influence is applied, the consumer decides if it inspires them enough to embrace the idea. Nike has always inspired consumers to Just Do It but now they’re inspiring consumers to Just do it more and do it better. This leads to a healthier lifestyle which breeds inspiration. Nike expedites the spread of inspiration through their product social media integration.

Nike is clearly innovating. The Innovation Kitchen cooked up a slam-dunk recipe here. I think this video speaks for itself. Mission accomplished . . . for now. The process never ends and there is no finish line. I guarantee those swoosh scientists in the Innovation Kitchen up north are cooking up the next.

Due to my “What If” obsession, I’m pondering what would happen if the White House had an Innovation Kitchen? What if each and every one of us had our own version of the Innovation Kitchen in our homes and offices?

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