Soh Rui Yong is a young distance runner who holds Singapore’s national record in the 10,000-meter distance. A few months ago he tried running his first marathon while studying and training in the US. Yesterday, he won the gold medal in the Men’s Marathon at the 28th Southeast Asian Games in his home country.
Trying something new can be scary, but it can also be very rewarding when it works out. As you come up with new ideas for products, services, markets, or processes, don’t be worried simply because you have not done things that way before. At the same time, though, remember that not every new idea is a great one, nor will they all just naturally work out. To improve the chances of your new ideas being effective, there are some things you can do to increase your odds of success.
First, to be fair to yourself and your organization, figure out the risk of failure and ask yourself if you can afford it. In Rui Yong’s case, he had the chance to compete at the SEA Games in the 10,000-meter event as well; if he got injured while training for the marathon he could miss out on both events, and end up not competing at all at the Games being held in front of the hometown crowd. When you do your risk analysis, you need to consider not only the direct costs you incur if you fail, but also the opportunity cost you incur by not playing it safe and going with something familiar. Rui Yong decided the risk was worth it, and his Singapore fans would agree.
Next, don’t just jump in blindly, but instead give a lot of thought to what it will take to succeed. For Rui Yong, that meant a training program that included a half-marathon a few weeks before the Games, some time spent training at higher altitude in the US, and returning to Singapore early enough so he could re-acclimate to the heat and humidity. As you decide what path you want to take, be honest with yourself about what it will take to get there. Since this is new for you, consider reaching out to others who have done something similar and spend some time thinking about how to get where you want to go instead of just what the destination will look like.
Finally, be flexible. Anytime you do something new, the odds of your first guess being exactly right are pretty slim; you need to be prepared for unexpected results, and try to create some space where you can be adaptable, rather than having to stick with one plan and just hope for the best. In yesterday’s race, Rui Yong stayed among the top 3 leaders most of the time but didn’t shoot out in front even though he could have; with his limited marathon experience it was probably better to hang back a bit and see what the other runners would do. As a result, the neck-and-neck race at the final 200 meters turned into a sprint as Rui Yong had saved enough energy for a final push in case he needed it, rather than spending it all back at the midpoint.
I am a big advocate for bringing innovation into how you do business, but I am an equally big advocate of doing so in a smart way. Creativity and change are essential elements for a successful organization, and they work best if you put some real thought into them rather than just hoping they will work.
The 28th SEA Games run through June 16 in Singapore.