This week, my graduate alma mater University of Virginia won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Not really a big deal for a team that was widely acknowledged throughout the season as a likely top seed and a definite contender. But only one year ago, this team – widely regarded as one of the best in the country, suffered the FIRST EVER upset of a #1 seed by a #16 seed – basketball darling UVA’s loss to surprise regional opponent University of Maryland – Baltimore County. It was a shocking David vs Goliath moment.

One year later, UVA won the national championship. There were some tough games and even the final game wasn’t an easy one… ticking brutally into overtime. Did Coach Bennett brush off last year’s loss as a fluke? Blame circumstances like missing one of his key players? Ignore the event completely? He did not… he actually acknowledged it as a powerful force for the team this year.

“If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.”

Tony Bennett, Coach
2019 NCAA Champion Virginia Cavaliers Men’s Basketball team

Bennett’s story is that his wife shared Ted Talks about emotional intelligence with him, and through those talks – examples referenced here – he was able to appreciate the value of the setback. Pause for a minute and think about that. This man had the emotional intelligence to take an event that many of us would view as humiliating, as devastating, as INCONCEIVABLE, and turn it into a bump on the road. We should all do that.

Too often we look at setbacks or challenges as terminations. One example my young marketing class discussed today is that in the real world, when a fledgling product launch doesn’t meet finance forecasts, it’s deemed a failure. Wrong! Instead, think of where there is an opportunity to learn. Engineering can learn from feedback if there are features missing. Marketing can learn if the message isn’t clear, if the benefits aren’t articulated or maybe the price: value relationship is skewed. Finance can (maybe) learn to take different input into account in their forecasts. As a team, the organization can get better, stronger, smarter in the face of headwind.

Most product development today is based on iterative methods, customer centricity and Agile development. Hallmarks of effective product development organizations in 2019 include cross-functional collaboration, continuous learning, feedback and continuous customer engagement. These are two- (or more) way conversations. Each disagreement can be a gift of uncovering assumptions, facts or risk. To drive success, an organization must have a humble, open, emotionally intelligent mindset; without this, internal and external partnerships cannot survive and thrive.

Tony Bennett is a phenomenal product manager. He had a product that should have succeeded in 2018. The market rejected his value proposition. Instead of giving up, he taught his team to face the crisis with a growth mindset. And now, he has a winning product – and he’s reminding them to stay humble in the face of their triumph.

“You have scars, right? You have a scar, and it reminds you of that, but it’s a memory. Does it go away completely? No. I wish it wouldn’t have happened in some ways. Now I say, ‘Well, it bought us a ticket here. So be it.’”

Tony Bennett, April 8, 2019

At the core of LIDOFY’s mission is that sense that every experience is an opportunity to learn. Every product, every business, every individual has the scars of their past injuries and failures. And yet we persist, we learn, we grow and we thrive. Hence the phoenix: it is the ultimate symbol of triumphant transformation in the face insurmountable difficulty.

Have you stumbled and need help getting back on track? Could you use an innovation coach who has experienced a wide variety of healthcare technology launches and creatively solved sticky problems? Let’s talk!