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5 Facts About Innovation Every Leader Should Know

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On May 19, 2018, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash named Sergio Romo the team’s starting pitcher for its game against the Los Angeles Angels. Normally this would not be newsworthy but this decision forever changed the game of baseball and has profound lessons on the subject of innovation for anyone in leadership.

What made Romo’s assignment so interesting was he was not a starting pitcher, but a reliever. Romo was used to closing games out, not starting them. But due to the team’s lack of quality starting pitching at the time, Cash had Romo start the game. He struck out the first three batters he faced and was then, to everyone’s surprise, pulled from the game. Ryan Yarbrough would pitch the next six-plus innings.

As a result, on May 19, 2018, the term “opener” was introduced to the game of baseball.  An “opener” is a pitcher whose speciality is starting the game strong by getting the initial outs. Ironically, Romo performed his “opener duties” shortly thereafter on May 22 and 23 against the Boston Red Sox.

There are five lessons leaders can take from this story.

1. Scarcity Spurns Innovation Because You Are Forced To Come up With New Ideas.

The Rays organization did not have anything against starting pitchers. They just didn’t have enough quality ones at the time. Therefore, they were forced to look for alternative solutions.

If your organization has limited financial resources, people, and time, this is not a bad thing. Constraints are an opportunity to come up with new ideas and innovate.

2. Innovation Requires Thinking Differently.

People are pretty predictable. Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh used to tell those around him that if everyone is thinking the same thing, no one is thinking.  Fresh thinking is a must if innovation is to occur.

3. Abundance Is Often the Enemy of Innovation.

While scarcity forces you to think outside the box and come up with new ideas, abundance often has the opposite effect. Abundance often leads you down the path of least resistance.

The is because organizations with an abundance of resources can often just buy the solution. It doesn’t require any divergent thinking.

4. Innovation Should Solve a Problem.

Innovation and solutions should be tied together.

5. Innovation Requires BIG Risks.

I give Coach Cash credit. To do something no one else has done often means putting your job at risk. It is just safer to follow the status quo.

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.