3 Things Skateboarders Can Teach Us About Innovation

Innovation in the Skateboarding Community

What does skateboarding teach us about innovation? Rodney Mullen gave a goofy and slightly irreverent TED Talk on the innovative culture of the skateboarding community. He lists the three factors necessary to create a vibrant community centered on creativity and innovation.


People need to feel free to create without fear of failure. Mullen remarks how humbling it is to practice new tricks, fall, and get back up again. In an emotional moment he tells us about how he only considers having won a championship once. After that he was just defending his title, and that caused him to take less risk and innovate less. It wasn’t until he saw the context of freestyle skateboarding disrupted by street terrains that he was forced to adapt and evolve his style. Dealing with these innovator’s dilemmas continues to be an important balancing act for our businesses.

Peer Recognition

Innovators are not just motivated by money and fame. Over time these extrinsic motivations become less and less important. We create because we want to feel like we are contributing to a community of our peers. This importance of peer recognition is seeing resurgence in the workplace. Just ask Shopify, a startup that recently adopted a completely peer-driven compensation model.

Tight Feedback Loops

If you’re still on your skateboard chances are your last trick was successful; if you find yourself on the floor holding your knee, not so much. In the corporate world we rarely have such tight feedback loops. It can take a long time before we know whether a new approach will yield results. You can drastically reduce the time to understanding by adopting a data-driven mentality. Analytics are crucial in measuring the success of business innovations.

It’s not just the skaters who are known for innovation in the skating community. Board manufacturer WeFunk is changing the way their designers and suppliers collaborate. By adopting cloud solutions they can focus on delivering amazing skating experiences around the world, instead of worrying about maintaining servers and IT infrastructure.

What do you think creates a culture of innovation? Send a tweet to @abontech to continue the conversation.

3 Things Skateboarders Can Teach Us About Innovation image skateboarding1 1024x2573 Things Skateboarders Can Teach Us About Innovation

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