Innovator: Visualize! It works!

By Shlomo Maital

Jake Arrieta Jake Arrieta

   What can one learn about innovation from the New York Times Sports section?

Well, it turns out, a great deal. Take for instance Chicago Cubs’ talented pitcher Jake Arrieta.   He just won his 20th game, first pitcher in the Major Leagues to do so.   And he did so even though the Cubbies, as fans call them, are not THAT strong a team, last I looked they were 7 games behind the leading team and not likely to make the playoffs.

   Jake Arrieta practices a powerful technique known as ‘visualization’.   Before you tackle a task, start a company, implement an innovation – visualize it. REALLY see it, in every detail.   Go through the motions, second by second, picture yourself as, say, Steve Jobs, announcing Macintosh in 1984. (He rehearsed that short talk, in which he introduces the Mac as a person, many many times, with a coach).   REALLY see it. Then, when you actually do it, it will be familiar, comfortable, you’ll be at ease, and perform at a very high level, like pitcher Jake Arrieta.

   Arrieta has a 20 wins, 6 losses record, with a 1.88 earned run average (fewer than 2 earned runs per game). Here is how he describes his ‘visualization’ technique:

   “You don’t think about something for the first time the day you do it. You think about pitching in the playoffs; you think about pitching in the World Series. And if you don’t, you should.” Arrieta pictures himself pitching on game day, the day he is scheduled to pitch, he seems himself pitching against the nine opposing betters, one by one, he strategizes, he throws his sinking slider, his fast ball…. Again and again.

     I am trying to apply this. I visualize myself in class, in a lecture hall, and lately, in front of a camera. I picture myself talking. I see my gestures, I see the audience, every detail, the water glass, the lectern….   You know it is working when you have a feeling of ‘déjà vu’, hey I’ve been here, done this, before, on the actual day.

     You can ‘visualize’ long range too. Think ahead backward. Picture where you want to be in 10 years. The room, the situation, the people around you, your team, everything. Picture it in detail. Maybe even draw it.   Then work backward. What are the many things you need to do to make it happen.

   Try it!   It works.