The Boys in the Boat is the story of a collegiate rowing crew from the University of Washington and their pursuit of Olympic gold in the 1936 Olympics, hosted by Hilter’s Germany. While the entire story is epic, one aspect that stands out for me is the optimistic and persistent nature of one of the main characters (and athletes) of the book, Joe Rantz. Joe has the great character trait of looking for opportunity until he finds it, no easy thing in the midst of the Great Depression.

Just like Joe needed to find work to get himself fed and through college, organizations too are needing to find new ways to maintain and grow until times are better.

To that end, I would suggest to not just look for the obvious opportunities, but to persistently look for opportunities that are more than just low hanging fruit. By this time, most of the low hanging opportunities have likely been picked anyway.

The truly valuable areas for companies with likely fall somewhere between optimization and disruption. Optimization is making adjustments to things we know. The benefit is that the adjustments are well-understood and can be made quickly. The risk is that the changes may be too small or making improvements to things that don’t matter as much anymore. Think Kodak working on reducing materials cost for film when the shift to digital is imminent or Blockbuster pushing for lower rents for their brick and mortar stores while Netflix was going to a mail-in model.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have disruption. That means moving into unknown territory. The rewards can be high, but the risks are high too. A company could either become the next Amazon, or one of the legions of start-ups that you have never heard of.

So stay persistent and looking for opportunities, but don’t stay with just the obvious. Stretch a bit. The obvious may keep an organization busy, but it is no guarantee it will keep the organization relevant.

….In case you missed it and for more details on specific actions you can do to lead innovation PRACTICALLY, see the recording of my webinar from last week.