I had the fun-but-scary experience recently of being on a live radio show at KQED, the local NPR affiliate, taking random calls from listeners in San Francisco. One call-in question essentially asked “Isn’t some of this innovation stuff hard to do?” The answer of course is that innovation can take work, but can also be REALLY rewarding in the long run. And putting a little extra energy into an innovation role is not nearly as hard or painful as slogging it out year after year in business-as-usual mode, pigeonholed into a narrow workstyle.
The most remarkable Hurdler’s achievement I witnessed in my childhood was the post-sputnik race to put a human on the moon. In May of 1961, JFK threw down the gauntlet, challenging the best minds in America to do what seemed truly impossible at the time. And he didn’t pretend for a minute that it would be simple.
“We choose to the moon in this decade and do the other things,” said JFK, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”
And they did it, of course, with a focused effort from industry, academia, and government, combining lots of hard work with some luck thrown in. So what is today’s equivalent for great Hurdlers, either inside your organization or on a national scale? If we had a charismatic leader and a dedicated constituency, what “impossible” goal could we acheive? Energy self-sufficiency within a decade? Cure the healthcare system? Conquer a disease? What extraordinary hurdles could your group jump, if you set your minds to it?