Snowboarding has a very different feel than other sports, and nothing highlights that better than the Olympics. We all see it—competitors cheer for each other and just want see each rider stomp their best run. Sure, there is disappointment when an individual doesn't perform as well as he or she had hoped—but that disappointment is put in context amidst the overall vibe of community support.
And, it's a community of individuals who are truly invested. The culture of the sport seems to draw creative risk-takers who know what it takes to excel, and who seem to have no issue honoring that same drive in their fellow athletes.
Every time a snowboarder straps in, they have the ability to do whatever they want. The snow is a blank canvas, and what they do with that canvas is an expression of their unique creativity. And every other snowboarder wants to see the most expressive and powerful painting.
In snowboarding, someone else's creative breakthrough is good for the whole sport, and raises the bar for everyone. It's not a diminishment of your individual accomplishments—it's a spur to your own creativity.
Take Ben Ferguson’s run from earlier this year when he scored a perfect 10… out of 100.
He just wanted to express himself in a way that no one else had on that half-pipe—and everyone loved it.
This spirit of the sport was evident in an interview with Kelly Clark—four-time Olympic snowboarder, 2002 Winter Games Halfpipe gold medalist, and bronze-winning final rider of the day—and Cinderella gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington.
"Snowboarding's an amazing sport because you really get individuals," Clark said. "There's a culture that goes along with it, there's a lifestyle. [...] But at the same time there's room for individuality, there's room for creativity."
The sport relies on this openness, such that Farrington, the eventual gold medalist, had only qualified for the Olympics three weeks before her victory. Farrington said she didn't even fully acknowledge that she was an Olympian until she was on the plane to Sochi the previous week.
Farrington managed to work past the nerves of the last-minute qualification because of this support for risk-taking, which sustains the unique culture that keeps the sport so vibrant. She went to Sochi merely hoping to make it to the final round—which just happened to include nine veteran Olympic riders of the twelve finalists—three of them gold medalists from previous Games.
Yes, in this sport a young girl can go from her family's horse ranch in Idaho to a gold medal that quickly. Farrington shares her last thoughts before her gold-securing run: "I got nothing to lose right now, so might as well go for it."
Imagine the difference it would make if we could channel a similar spirit, and create an innovation culture within our own environments. A culture where everyone supports those around them and pushes them to maximize their potential in everything they do. A culture that constantly progresses for the better and brings everyone along for the ride.
Adam Hansen is VP of Innovation and an Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.
Adam Hansen is co-author of the book, Outsmart Your Instincts, How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward, and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.