Why is Climbing like Innovation?

Why is Climbing like Innovation?

Having recently shared my views on the process of innovation, I was speaking with my adult kids about the sports I used to enjoy in “ my youth “.

I began reflecting about climbing in the days before indoor climbing gyms, where we would climb local cliffs plus an annual pilgrimage to the picturesque Blue Mountains, before they were closed for climbing. I have included a few of our expedition photos below. It is certainly the ultimate “ trust exercise!“

I took it up because we could climb in small groups, so it was social, we could climb at night under lights on the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, so it was convenient, it makes you focus and forget about everything else (for fear of falling) and it’s physically challenging.

But as I was reflecting on all the fun we had, it dawned on me there were also a lot of similarities with the psychology of innovation such as:

1. The 3 P’s -Purpose, Passion, Persistence

Climbing, like most sports requires lots of these. You must want to succeed, commit and keep at it to improve technically, physically and mentally.

2. Preparation

Climbing requires understanding what you are about to attempt, then getting your gear and body right. Climbs are graded based on difficulty. As you get better, you pick harder climbs. It’s would be helpful if business challenges were similarly graded before we took them on.


3. Pick your Team

You need a team to back you up. Unless you are a “free climbing guru”, climbing is a team activity.

4. Commit

There is only one way – up. Often the hardest part of a climb or a project is starting, knowing there is no turning back.

5. Confidence

To begin a climb or a project , you need confidence in your training and team that you will be able to overcome all obstacles and achieve the objective.

As Churchill said “ We shall never Surrender”.

6. Don’t Look Down

Avoid all the noise, in your head and from outside, focus on what you need to do, stick to the plan, commit and follow through.

When climbing – don’t look down as usually creates lots of other feelings (distractions).

7. You will fall – trust

Eventually, you will fall. You need trust your training, preparation, skills and team to know you will recover, regroup and get back on track.

Business challenges are the same.

I didn’t know it at the time, but climbing helped me develop and fine tune many of the skills and attitudes required to nurture the innovation process.

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