Innovation Is an Endurance Sport

Sports metaphors are not to be used in public speaking or blogging – it is a well-known rule. But what if sports moves from metaphor to something more? Recently we had the opportunity at SDL to visit a company known for their best practices. One of the most striking things about this very successful business is its hiring practices: it only hires people who have either been in a team sport such as softball, baseball, soccer (known to most of the non-NFL world as football), or who were in band in high school. Teamwork was so important to them that they wanted the entire workforce to be serious team players before they were even employed. This strategy works for them very successfully.
In the service industry, it makes sense to keep everyone on the same team. There’s something rather different about much of the workforce at Scientific Device Laboratory. SDL is not made of team athletes. Instead we are mainly endurance athletes. Active swimmers, bikers, runners, even a triathlete make up our research and development team. If you want something new, if you want innovation, the endurance athlete mentality is required. In a word, that mentality is persistence. With persistence, the impossible becomes possible. Probably close to 99% of the world believes that they cannot run the 26.2 miles of a marathon, or even the 3.1 miles of a 5K. Endurance athletes don’t think like that — they just don’t give up. If something fails, they try again, even if the failure was painful. They work in small, manageable increments, so there is less of a chance of giving up. Some marathon runners do not run 26.2 miles, but instead run 262 tenths of a mile. It does not matter if the water is cold or the path is icy — they go do their swim or run anyway.

At SDL we didn’t intend to hire endurance athletes, but innovation is an endurance sport. We have been making innovative products for laboratories worldwide for over three decades. We believe in making the impossible possible. Step by step, we will make an idea into something insanely great. Sometimes the waters are cold or the road impossibly long to develop a product. We have made devices for the microbiology laboratory, diagnostic tools for the detection of tuberculosis, and a myriad of printing and coating techniques for assays, arrays, microfluidics and microscope slides. Goethe once said: “In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm; in the real world, all rests on perseverance.” At Scientific Device Laboratory, we have both.