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You Might Want the DNA of a Skateboarder

I love following the action sports industry. After being immersed in that business several years ago (and while also being a surfer and skier), I miss its creative energy.

Additionally, I’ve always believed that the industry’s companies (i.e. DC Shoes, Burton Snowboards, Volcom, etc.) can teach us a lot about innovation.

There are a several reasons for this.

First, the people who lead them are natural experimenters, artists and risk takers. They’re iconoclasts. Since most action sports associates grew up skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing, they are accustomed to independence, personalization, and daring new “tricks.” The concepts of play and self-expression come natural to them, which are essential when creating – or stumbling upon – novel ideas.

Ever watch a skateboarder for 5 minutes? He’s the master of trying something new, falling down and trying again. And again. And again. ‘Til he gets it right.

Additionally, there’s a brotherhood within and among action sports company associates. They’re more prone to share ideas within their communities, and to a degree, with competitors. In fact, I’d classify the relationship among companies as more of a coopetitive situation than a competitive situation. This is crucial for fostering a community of fresh thinking.

Finally, action sports associates are highly passionate about what they do. They’re more deeply engaged in their work. There’s little disconnect between who they are and what they do. As a result, new product and marketing ideas come more freely and often.

What do you think?

What other industries teach us about innovation? What factors contribute to that industry being innovative?

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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