How to Create Innovation “Upsets” — Or, Four Ways Innovators Can Learn From Lukas Rosol

Who’s Lukas Rosol?

He’s the 100th ranked tennis player in the world. A virtual “no name” with only 19 professional level tour match wins. A 26 year old, 6 foot 5 drink of water at about 170 pounds. Bad haircut. Czech dude. Major tat on his left calf. Lean and mean.

As of tonight he has 20 wins.

This evening at Wimbledon, against long odds, he upset one of the greatest tennis players that ever lived, Rafael Nadal. Nadal won the French Open just a few weeks ago, this is not an old champion fading away. It’s a stunning defeat for Rafa, a player known for his ultra fitness and competitiveness, at the peak of his game.

Absolutely nobody would have given Lukas Rosol a chance to win — except Lukas. But he did win, this is the biggest upset in Wimbledon history. I’m not a sports writer, although I am a huge tennis fan. I have some idea of how he did it.

What can Innovators learn from Lukas Rosol? I think these four things:

  1. If you work hard and do the preparation, if you have the tools, “impossible” results are actually possible. Innovator’s working against long odds, one of the keys to an upset is to keep working. The snail does climb Mt. Fuji, just very slowly. Rosol has been setting up this success for 10 years, doing the work, labouring in obscurity, but clearly, he has the tools. Huge serve, fit and strong, he hit the ball so hard I wonder how the racket strings held up. He was able to play this well — because he was ready to play this well. Innovators, piece together your solution, one tool/factor at a time. If it’s really hard, good! That means other people will resist doing it.
  2. Sometimes the odds makers are wrong. Probability is not an exact science. The odds change after somebody does something extraordinary. You too, Mr. and Ms Innovator out there — can be a Game Changer. Don’t listen to what the oddsmakers, cynics, and other goofballs say — just go out and prove them wrong.
  3. You can’t predict the future from past events. Contexts change. Players change, as do Markets, conditions, circumstances, and consumers — they all change. Change is opportunity. Be ready for a change in circumstances and create an unlikely win.
  4. Rosol took chances. Most modern tennis players use topspin. They wind up and hit below the ball and turn the racket head over it in a big loopy stroke. As a result the balls clear the net higher than a “flat” stroker. They do this because the loopy stroke is less risky, it’s a higher percentage shot. However, if you hit a “flat” shot, the ball goes lower and faster over the net — it’s much harder to hit. Basically Rosol hit flat, risky,  aggressive shots all night long. He never stopped! Rosol had nothing to lose, so he took chances. Innovators need to be flat shot hitters. It’s the only way to beat players with more resources, more “game.”

Thanks for an inspiring victory Mr. Rosol. 


Posted in Entrepreneurial, Innovation, Inspirational