Innovation Obstacles

April 12, 2013

It doesn’t take long to compile a dozen or more examples of products or businesses that have disappeared, or nearly so, because the world changed while the product or business did not.

Think eight-track tapes and players.  Consider what digital photography has done, from the Eastman Kodak Company to out-of-business local studios.  What the Internet has done to travel agents.  See what’s happened and still happening to print newspapers across the country, to magazines, and to both local and large chain bookstores.

It is not at all rare that businesses fail to reinvent themselves.  For many reasons, including admirable passion for what they are doing, business leaders often miss the trends or ignore the signs that suggest the need to change their products or their entire business model.

As Geoff Colvin wrote in FORTUNE magazine Feb. 25, 2013, “Business model innovation is a competency that doesn’t exist in most companies.”  He continued:  “The largest obstacles will be weak imaginations, threatened interests, and culture.”

I suspect that those are also the three major obstacles we must overcome as we think about the future of interscholastic athletics.

  • Does school-based sports, with a 100-year-old history, have a 50 or even 15 year future in schools and society?
  • If so, should the business model change?  And if so, how?

I suspect that some of what we think is change may be no better than rotating bald tires on our car; when what we really need is new tires, or no tires at all.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.