Meticulously planned uncertainty


Meticulously planned uncertainty – it’s one of my favourite phrases and it certainly sums up the Tokyo Olympic Games.  I have been transfixed by the spectacle of achievement that the Games represent and in a moment of downtime after watching one of the new events it struck me once more that unbeknownst to the people involved, the Six ‘I’s® on Innovation had most likely been at play … read on to find out how I arrived at that conclusion.

The sport in question is skateboarding.  I was glued to the excitement of it and later that day it occurred to me how it may have happened.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Six ‘I’s® of Innovation model invented by Natalie Turner of the Entheo Network, it is a purpose driven and human-centric innovation model.  It works because its structure is based on how humans pretty much go about their lives, including how they might produce an Olympic Games.

Let’s start with the purpose-driven bit. Purpose is why something exists or is created, so it is a great place to anchor any innovation journey. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a very clear purpose, “to build a better world through sport”.  One of its missions is “to promote sport and the Olympic values (excellence, respect, and friendship) in society, with a focus on young people”. So, what has this to do with skateboarding and how is it evidence of the Six ‘I’s® working behind the scenes in service of that purpose?

Identify is all about making sense of trends and patterns and seeking out new opportunities.  Identifiers would have noticed the need to engage with the future generations of Olympians to ensure the games remain relevant and sustainable.  Not least because a lot of revenue comes from advertising and sponsorship and youth is always a key market.  In keeping with the IOC’s commitment to unity and diversity this also needs to reach all regardless of background.

Ignite is all about creativity and idea generation, about how to make that opportunity real.  Igniters would have looked at the issue creatively – rather than how do we get them to engage with our tried and trusted Games formula, the questions would be “how do we take the Games to them and make the Games for them too?” Igniters would have looked at what the next generations are doing (skateboarding, BMX, indoor climbing) and include those alongside the more traditional programme.

Investigate is where ideas are prototyped, validated, and stress tested for usefulness. 

Investigators would develop the value proposition – how can the Games accommodate this? What venues will need to be built? Are there enough competitors to make it viable? What type of qualifying competition will feed into the event? How is scoring and seeding managed to make it Olympic.  In short, can this work?

Invest is about having the courage and persuasiveness to get others to back ideas to create value.  Investors know the Olympics is built on a solid foundation, and this is a great base to innovate from and minimise risk.  Building or adapting venues means more people with access to opportunity; opportunity breeds success; success breeds funding; funding underpins belief and inspiration; and inspiration bolsters the Olympic legacy.

Implement is all about putting everything into practice, it is where the initial idea becomes value creating.  From a pure innovation perspective this is where the hard work is.  Arguably, in the case of the Olympics, maybe not; this is where the meticulously planned uncertainty plays out – we know when, where, and how the event will take place – what we can never truly know is who will win as it unfolds.   

Improve is about optimisation of what we have into other value creating opportunities, it’s about being clever with your pre-existing resources.  Accessible skate parks exist the world over, some professional, some makeshift; for those that can, how about projecting the competition onto a part of the park? Making role models of these new Olympians and their achievements will be a source of inspiration and further embed the IOC’s mission of promoting the sport and the Olympic values (excellence, respect, and friendship) in society, with a focus on young people.  The next generations consume their media differently to the traditional live TV coverage, so go and meet them where they are … which is kind of where we came in.

The Olympic movement is all about the indomitable human spirit and being your best self, they choose to build this better world through the medium of sport.  I believe it works.  

Start a conversation