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Thursday, June 21, 2007 

Where the puck is going...

Clayten Christensen is fond of quoting ice skating legend Wayne Gretzky, who apparently attributed his luck with the puck to "Skating to where the puck is going, not where it is". In other words Gretzky watched the pattern of the game being played and felt confident to predict the probability of the puck's movement, spilling out from a pack of skaters.

Christensen uses this as a metaphor for spotting opportunities for innovation in business, and of course specifically to explain why some people see an opportunity for a (potentially) disruptive innovation where other people presumably see... zip.

This metaphor has stuck in my mind ever since hearing Christensen explain it a few years ago. When you truly start to focus on the challenge of implementing a 'disruptive strategy', all sorts of strange things start to happen. Firstly, you instinctively begin to disassociate yourself from the status quo, because the herd can not by definition be following the same scent as you, can they? No.. they are skating to where the puck is... and there they are, as plain as day, reveling in it.

But you don't want to go where these guys are going, because the laugh you want is the last one... and you know that it is like a science. Its a discipline. It's achievable.

The metaphor only holds in a standard team situation.
When playing a sport you can usually rely on the rest of your team having the same goal and the players can be expected to pass the puck to someone on their own team.
What if you found yourself in a game where you thought you knew the rules,
then found some surprising changes to the game?
The team members are all unknown to you, they do not wear colours and they do not communicate
in a manner that gives you confidence that they are being truthful.
So player #1 has the ball and you only know that you want to be where he is going to send it.
Which end is my goal at? Which end is his?
Is the player near to me on my team or the other?
Are there players that are on a team of their ownand only have one goal, that being to win a point for themselves....
what if nobody will tell you the rules....!!
Don't mistake a metaphor for a solution to YOUR goal of forseeing the next big thing.
Use your instincts and if you want to play on a team....gain trust.

Actually, and of course, it wasn't my metaphor. It was a metaphor used by Professor Clayten Christensen when discussing the concept of disruptive innovation. Thankfully there is a team, there are rules and we know where and what the goals are... but thank you for your 'anonymous' comment.

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