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Creativity, Innovation, Leadership and Market Disruption: Lessons From An Underdog

Please bear with me while I uncharacteristically talk about sports. I promise I won’t do it again for a while.

My love of Boise State football is perplexing to most people that know me. Sure on paper it makes sense. I’m from Boise and am a two time BSU alumni, receiving both my BA in Communications and my MBA from the school with the Smurf Turf. But I’ve never been an overly vocal BSU football fan. Largely because, in general, I’m not a big football fan. Even today I rarely watch a BSU game, usually opting to stream the audio off the Internet.

So what’s changed? Am I just a fair weather, band wagon jumping fan? Hardly. I’ve always supported BSU if for no other reason then the better they did, the better the impact their success would have on the whole town. My problem was that everyone in Boise is a BSU fan and the most rabid fans are the people who moved from other states and never went to BSU. So being an avid BSU fan in Boise isn’t very cool (by my weird contrarian standards). But being an outspoken fan in Washington at a company where most people went to one of the Washington or Oregon schools, is a lot more fun. It’s the contrarian in me.

There’s another factor though and it’s the team itself. BSU has broken every stero type and has done something they shouldn’t have been able to do. Without the budget or prestige of the big schools they’re competing on a level that they shouldn’t be able to. They don’t have the biggest players or the fastest player but they consistently beat better funded, bigger and faster teams. The question everyone asks is how?

The fact is “Coach Pete” is an amazing coach. He knows how to get the most out his players and isn’t afraid to try things most coaches don’t have the stomach for. There’s a great feature piece in the Idaho Statesman about Coach Peterson that sheds some light on the question at hand and has some great lessons you can apply to your professional life. The article has a lot of great points but the ones I liked the most were:

  • “The Gang”
  • Creativity in Your Job.
  • Clarity of Purpose

The Gang

Over the years I’ve found that having a group of peers to collaborate with is critical to keeping your edge, even for a football coach. ”About four years ago, Petersen was recruited by BSU business professor Nancy Napier to participate in a small group of local leaders she identified as being high-performing in their fields” Nancy was one of my professors in my MBA program and specializes on creativity inside organizations.

This doesn’t have to be a formal group of people. For me it’s always been something I’ve done informally. I regularly reach out to friends and people in the area that are doing cool things. For most people this falls under the area of networking, which is something we usually do to build out our networks when we need them. For me it’s that but also a way to find new ideas and inspiration through what others are doing.

Creativity in Your Job

Creative doesn’t mean you can design or come up with crazy ideas or dress all in black.

Napier originally used the word ”creative“ to describe the group, but Petersen balked. He preferred the word ”innovative.“

”He said, ‘There’s nothing new in football, and I’m not creative,’“ said Napier, executive director of the Centre for Creativity and Innovation at BSU.

But he came around. After the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Petersen became more aware that ”creativity is doing things differently,“ Napier said.

Clarity of Purpose

I talk a lot about strategy and I do believe that strategy is important but in our personal life, as leaders, we have to start with something else. Something that drives the creation and execution of strategy and that’s having a clear vision of where you’re going and why.

Tadman said one of Petersen’s strengths as a head coach is his ability to clearly and succinctly communicate what the team needs to do in practice — and why.

”Even if you didn’t want to do it, you understood why,“ Tadman said. ”Everything had a point and a purpose. There was no wasted fluff. He was treating us like men: Here’s what we’ve got to do to win. This is the system we’re going to do to get there.“

Photo credit by vividcorvid

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

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  • http://twitter.com/EricBurgess Eric Burgess

    “Largely because, in general, I’m not a big football fan.” Must be the skateboarder in you. We were never really into team sports were we? I’m in this same predicament with the San Francisco Giants whom I’m now compelled to support since I grew up around there.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    It’s a little hard to support the kind of guys who used to try and pick on you in high school.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/internetmarketingnickstamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    I particularly like the third point here, clarity of purpose! Knowing exactly what the purpose is of what you are told to do is a huge factor in the lives of professionals! Understanding the “why” makes a huge difference in getting the job done.

  • http://www.searchengineoptimizationjournal.com/2010/10/28/blog-posts-read-10282010/ Blog Posts to Read Week of October 28, 2010

    [...] Creativity, Innovation, Leadership and Market Disruption: Lessons From An Underdog This post does a great job explaining three important factors that one can apply to their professional lives, including having clarity of purpose, maintaining creativity, and the importance of a support network behind you. [...]

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