I remember being inspired to run when I watched the great Track & Field athletes at the 72 Munich Olympics. My first pair of running shoes was the SL72, and my first track spike the adidas Apollo, so I’ve been running for 40+ years and witnessed some great athletic achievements.
In 1988 I joined adidas, turning my passion for running into business. This was the same year the adidas brand launched Torsion. While the original concept had some issues, the idea of Torsion, in combination with foam, has informed how running shoes are built up until today. But in all my years of running I’ve never experienced, or witnessed anything quite like our latest innovation – Boost. From the first time I stepped into the shoes, I knew we had something truly remarkable, that this is a “Game Changer”, in our industry!
Really big things happen…unfortunately most often without us, right!? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could say that you sat in Steve Job’s presentation of the first iphone? It probably would also have been quite amazing to witness the moment when the first thought of Facebook hit Mark Zuckerberg. How mind blowing would it have been to take a seat in the sound studio with the Beatles when they recorded their break through single “I want to hold your hand” – clicking your fingers to the music. On the other hand it is not even certain that we would have realized the real meaning of these special moments – afterwards one is always wiser…unless you get a hint.
It’s that moment in the last minute of the game when you realize the vital through ball will succeed and you will score – no matter what. It’s the moment when you resolutely turn in a completely new and surprising direction. It’s the moment when you hold your breath because of all the excitement. These are the few but powerful situations which have the potential to fundamentally change the game. adidas has in its history experienced a couple of these special moments, too. Most often they have been triggered by the innovative spirit Adi Dassler anchored in the DNA of our brand and which Bernd Wahler, Head of Innovation at adidas, also described in his recently published interview.
In the last years I have investigated quite extensively adidas’ history for the history book ‘The story as told by those who have lived and are living it’. Based on this knowledge, let me share what I feel some of the most important and game-changing moments in our history were.
In November 2010, the adidas Group announced its long-term strategic business plan Route 2015Route 2015 is the Strategic Business Plan for 2015 that aims at growing the business of the entire adidas Group to € 17 billion by 2015. This plan is the most comprehensive business plan the adidas Group has ever prepared, incorporating all brands, sales channels and Group functions globally. It is our road to success: our Route 2015., which aims at growing the business of the entire adidas Group to 17 billion Euros and reaching an operating margin of 11% by 2015. The running category has been defined as one of the key growth drivers to reach these ambitious goals and 2013 is marked as the ‘Year of Running’ for adidas. Today, I met Eric Liedtke (Head of Performance at adidas) and had the chance to talk to him about running and why it is so important for the adidas Group.
“The art of innovation is to anticipate what consumers can’t articulate yet”
Back in the days, common football player’s opinion was that a boot mainly needed to protect you from the opponents’ tackles and the impact of kicking the ball. Adi Dassler was said to be an inventor and a lateral thinker more than anything else. He observed that a footballer was only in contact with the ball for maybe 90 seconds of the 90 minutes; the rest of the time he was running, so Adi Dassler reasoned that a footballer needed footwear as light as possible instead of heavy, clumsy leather boots. Apparently Adi Dassler didn’t care much about conventions. He had his own ideas and followed them, no matter what others said. When I recently read about this little anecdote in our history book I immediately thought that you can still feel Adi Dassler’s visionary and creative spirit here at adidas. But what makes an idea a successful innovation? What is our framework for innovation? My curiosity was piqued and I decided to ask Bernd Wahler, adidas Head of Innovation, for an interview. Here’s what I learned…