Strategyzer provides innovation masterclass for sport leaders

Leaders in sport and active recreation throughout Victoria, including CEOs, senior managers and board directors, were treated to an innovation masterclass last month thanks to Vicsport and strategy and innovation advisors, Strategyzer.

Fred Etiemble, Associate Partner at Strategyzer and co-author of The Invincible Company, alongside Strategyzer Business Model Coach Nick Rakis, were on hand to outline the skills leaders in sport can develop to lead innovation in their organisation and build long-term resilience and sustainability.

“The need to explore new ideas and business models is necessary now, more than ever, to enhance the long-term durability of our industry,” said Vicsport Participation and Innovation Manager, Tom Dixon.

“Exploiting business models already in place is one thing but exploring new models and ideas requires different skills, processes and behaviours. Fred and Nick’s presentation outlined this exploit vs. explore theory while delving into the role that sports leaders’ play when designing and nurturing an innovation culture that will, ideally, enable repeatable outcomes.”

A fan of Strategyzer since being introduced to them by Spark Strategy during the 2018 Vicsport Sport Jam, Tom’s interest grew further after reading The Invincible Company.

“I contacted their founder, Alex Osterwalder, in July 2020 to determine whether engaging him on a webinar with sports was feasible but unfortunately the cost was too great,” said Tom. “However, Strategyzer mentioned that Fred was based in Melbourne and as a co-author of The Invincible Company, I knew he would be a perfect presenter.

“We caught up over Zoom and organised for him to chat to the sports industry in person, once the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.”

“Innovation has always been a critical success factor for all stakeholders in the sports industry,” said Fred.

“Consider introductions such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the 2018 FIFA World Cup or look at the NBA who have appeared several times on the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, including at number 3 in 2019. In an increasingly digital world, now shaken up by a global pandemic, innovation will become even more critical for sport organisations as an answer to disruption risks and an avenue to explore new ideas.”

The session, titled “Innovation Insights for Leaders in Sport” became the first major in-person event for Vicsport in more than a year following the COVID-19 lockdowns. CEOs, board directors and senior managers were targeted as the key decision makers for their organisations and participants enjoyed face-to-face networking, morning tea and lunch while also receiving a free copy of The Invincible Company.

“Those decision makers are the ones who need to be fully across the potential of the innovation process,” said Tom. “They may not do all the work themselves but they are the ones who will empower people and invest in the process and/or system that can achieve the outcomes.”

Across the four-hour session, participants learned about different types of innovation and how best to test a new idea through a scientific and rigorous process which allows the user to see whether the idea is warranted before potentially wasting time, money or both.

“The ‘explore’ theory in The Invincible Company is about protecting organisations against long-term disruption. A lot of sports are seeing declines in participation at the moment so it’s about exploring different models to engage new audiences that still fit within the remit of what the sport is there to do. My experiences have shown very few sports are exploring new ideas but that is the current nature of the industry; we are good at what we do and we are outcome-focused so we don’t often think outside the box.”

“While we had not presented to the sports industry before, the fundamental elements of the exploration challenge are the same across all industries,” said Fred.

“Blockers such as limited time and resources, a focus on exploitation as well as fears of the unknown and failing can seem overwhelming but they don't have to be. With the support of a courageous leader and devoted time and resources for even a few small teams, any sport organisation can start their exploration of new products, services and/or business models.

“There were some great discussions during the workshop and I felt the group understood their role as leaders in supporting and challenging innovation to achieve strategic outcomes. I also enjoyed expanding on these ideas beyond a profit-focus, using innovation to assist in inclusion, diversity and better health outcomes for members as well.”

Following the event, Tom has caught up for individual meetings with a number of SSAs looking to utilise innovation in their workplans and through Vicsport’s partnership with VicHealth, more innovation events will be added to the calendar in the coming months.

“I’d love to get Fred back again for another event where we look at successful models in our industry and further ‘sportify’ his own innovation theories,” said Tom. “There are definitely a few ideas to follow up on.”

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