How to be a game changer


Canada's Derek Drouin won a bronze medal in the men's high jump competition Tuesday at the London Olympics (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

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First aired on The Current (6/8/12)


Derek Drouin captured the bronze medal in the men's high jump at the London Games, the first medal for Canada in that event since the 1976 Games in Montreal. And he did so using the Fosbury Flop, a jumping technique created by Dick Fosbury in the 1960s that changed the sport forever.

Then there's Nicole Rycroft. A former elite Australian athlete, Rycroft took on the Canadian publishing industry, making using recycled paper the new norm in order to protect the west coast rainforest. Her company, Canopy, is now one of the green leaders in book and magazine publishing in the world.

Finally, there's Ben Kaufman, an entrepreneur who launched Quirky, a company and online community that helps other innovators bring their ideas to life. So far, Quirky has launched 217 products, partnered with 188 retailers and has a community of more than 243,000 inventors.

All three of these people are game changers. The Current spent all last season highlighting game changers: people, places, ideas and programs that forever changed the way the world works. But what turns an innovator into a game changer? The Current decided to find out, and turned to Hal Gregersen, co-author of The Innovators' DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators to find out.

"Each of these people...have a skill they leveraged," Gregersen explained to The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti. "For Dick Fosbury, it was experimentation. For Nicole Rycroft, it was observation. For Ben Kaufman, his skill is networking for ideas."

While each of these game changers used a different skill to tackle the problems they faced, they all have one thing in common: they ask the tough questions. Game changers constantly challenge the status quo. They constantly ask how they can make something better, faster, cheaper or smarter. And they act that way. They constantly provoke the world with questions that are frustrating and disruptive and it's doing those things, acting differently, that helps them think differently."

Gregersen also suggests that being methodical and thorough is key to becoming a game changer. What many perceive as a risk is not seen that way by the innovator undertaking it. "They've engaged these innovation skills so thoroughly that they understand the terrain so well that the risk they're taking is actually smart."

But they don't do it alone. What made Fosbury, Rycroft and Kaufman successful is that they knew when to ask for help. Fosbury had a coach he relied on. Rycroft needed an in to talk to the publishing industry. And Kaufman was an ideas man, but he wasn't a designer or developer. By knowing when they needed assistance, and not being afraid to ask for it, Fosbury, Rycroft and Kaufman turned these challenges into opportunities — and made their ideas even better. "You don't get a new idea and make it great alone," Gregersen said. "It takes conversation. It takes interaction. It takes evolving an idea to the point it can actually succeed."

But, above all, what these three innovators had was passion. In order to be a game changer, you need to be passionate about your project. "It's noticing something to the point that your heart is moved and your hands must follow."

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