How climbing a mountain is like innovation

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How climbing a mountain is like innovation

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I’m a keen cyclist, and next summer have signed up to ride an event in Austria that crosses over into Italy and Switzerland before returning to Austria for the finish.  Central to the ride is the climb of the Passo del Stelvio.  At 2,757m it’s the 2nd highest paved road in Europe, and was voted by Top Gear no less as the finest road to drive in the world.

The ride will see us climb the 20 odd kilometres to the top, via each of it’s 47 switchback corners.  It is one of those that nearly every cyclist has on their ‘knock list’ to do at some point in their life.  As you can see from the photo to the right, in addition to the physical effort involved, the beauty of the area is a sight to behold.

Except for me, the climb itself is not the main challenge.  Of course I’ll need to train hard over the winter so that come June I’m ready for the ride, but I’m kinda short and only weigh around 56kg, so climbing is something that I rather enjoy.

What I’m not so good at is the going down the other side, and those 47 hair pins need to be descended to get to the bottom of the climb to continue the event.  What’s more, at that kind of altitude the weather can be very unpredictable, so whilst you may be very warm on the way up, on the way down it can get very cold indeed.  Plus of course, one wrong move and you could find yourself going down the mountain rather faster than you’d wish for!

So concentrating only on the uphill would be a major mistake, despite the undoubted temptation to regard scaling this beast as the pinnacle.  Arguably the harder part is still to come.

It kinda reminds me a bit of innovation.  There’s an awful lot of focus on the idea creation part of innovation.  Organisations and individuals will put a lot of effort into being creative and coming up with ideas, which is great, but often organisations will come up with far more ideas than they can actually do anything with.

They’ve overlooked the more challenging side of the innovation equation, which is of course actually implementing the ideas you have.  So just as over the next few months I’ll be practicing descending and cornering so that the ride down the mountain is just as much fun as the ride up it, if innovation is important to you, you’ll need to ensure that the implementation side is just as sexy and gets just as much attention as the idea generation part.

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