To represent a minority often means that your perspective is unique. It’s a position I’ve found myself in many times as a woman, as an innovation designer, as a Colombian living abroad and as a golfer. With my perspectives being different from the majority, I have learned to look at environments from multiple angles and create a type of high-resolution image of those places and moments in my mind. It’s an invaluable asset to have and one I’ve honed on the golf course rather than at design school.

Yes, you heard me correctly – the golf course.

I played many sports as a kid but found golf the most challenging – a battle I have not yet conquered completely. Golf is sometimes dismissed as just a ‘game’ but those close to the sport see how valuable a golfer’s brain is in the world of business and arts: assessing a shot, managing the risk a hole brings and the potential reward, the planning and patience to take each hole at a time.

Let me share five valuable lessons that I have learned from golf and use daily in my professional and personal life:

1. Be curious and remain humble

When watching golf on TV, it seems like an easy game. The moment you start playing it you realize there is more to consider in order to be prepared for the unknowns of the golf course. Being curious means that not only will you ask questions, but you will actively engage in seeking the answers.

When you are on this quest, your brain is actively trying to connect the dots, between a conversation you had with a co-worker, an article you read a week ago, and the email you just received. Information now is being scanned thoroughly by your brain in a tireless quest for connection. The first cluster of dots that you build is an idea and from there a natural process happens which is ideation or idea generation.

2. Failure is giving up before success happens. Never quit

Women playing golf on a green fairway_success, GamePlanA, adidas, golf
I was never the best in my age group or even my country club and it took over 10 years to start to see results.

I am not sure whether success at golf is the result of natural talent. I sure wasn’t gifted with a club and the easiest path would be to quit and try something else but I was stubborn and committed to my dreams and purpose. In high school, I qualified for national tournaments, which then led to world championships and then a scholarship to study design and play golf.

When I look at how I now approach my job I see that same stubbornness. Innovation to me is a form of creativity that didn’t give up. When faced with uncertainty many shy away from it and simply worry. In innovation, you need the opposite. Sooner or later you learn to lean in and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. A project begins with an idea. We craft a vision but do not know the obstacles that will arise. The process is to always take a step forward until a milestone or discovery has been hit.

3. There will be mistakes. Learn from them

What distinguishes an average golf player from a great one is the ability to recover from bad shots. The absolute best players know how to bounce back fast and make opportunities out of their mistakes. After a mistake, it is necessary to go find the ball, assess the situation, start the routine from zero by giving it your full attention and then commit to the planned shot. The goal is to become a recovery master by focusing on being fully present.

A women is sketching a shoe on a laptop and works creative on a new innovation
Mistakes often uncover areas or opportunities that we had never even considered. Committing to the process usually leads to an answer.

Like in golf, every day is a new shot. In innovation, we are always trying new ideas, which mean mistakes happen along the way. Those can be used to shape the path and the future decisions.

4. Learn from others and share your knowledge too

Being an individual sport, growing up playing golf was often lonely. In Colombia, there is no such thing as middle- or high-school golf teams. I learned the most when I played golf as a team in college. The team had players from all over the world including Mexico, Hong Kong, Philippines, USA, Canada and Colombia. This cultural diversity was our biggest challenge at first. Then it became our major strength.

A diverse golf team with different females smiling into the camera, Golf, GamePlanA, adidas, team
Our diverse golf team defined and chose our own set of values. We had six different ways to approach golf from the diverse cultural backgrounds we brought to the course.

My professional mentor and boss Jon Munns says, “Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. Rather it is through sharing ideas, experiences and opportunities between people”. Collaboration allows more connections and higher chances of different ideas resulting in an innovative solution. This process is much more fun and will enable a broader and richer perspective.

5. Find that new angle

The fifth lesson that golf has taught me is related to finding new angles and approaches. In my opinion this is the fundamental lesson, as all previous lessons are related to this one.

Searching for those new and refreshing angles also strengthens my persistence, as I understand there are multiple ways to solve a problem. Lastly the search for hidden angles is a great catalyst to enjoy the ride and connect with others.

My experience has taught me that groups with rich and diverse perspectives like my college golf team are stronger, more efficient, and overall more innovative as there are multiple ways to approach a situation and solve a problem. The best workplaces have an environment in which ideas can come from anywhere and they will get heard. Diversity is a valuable characteristic and it allows us to find the hidden angles we would have otherwise missed.

Do you have experience of playing away from the mainstream to help your creativity? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREATIVITY

Creativity requires focus, passion and above all, practice- take it from those who know.

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5 COMMENTS

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by Dave Halley 16.01.2018
Many of my best ideas come to me on the golf course, especially when I am on my own playing late on in the day when the course is quiet and I can still my mind and just let things flow. Golf courses are great places for meditation and a quiet, calm but thoughtful mind, is conducive to better golf.
Hit them long and straight!!

Cheers

Dave
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by morgan 16.01.2018
"Mistakes often uncover areas or opportunities that we had never even considered" - This is a great insight and will certainly help change my perspective on mistakes and failures. Well said!
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Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor morgan 23.01.2018
Hi Morgan,
I totally agree.

I also changed my attitude towards failure: Some years ago, I failed in a very important moment of my career (I thought back then) and some of my team buddies were coming to me saying, that this setback will pay off later. I didn't want to hear their advice and focused on my feeling of frustration for some days. Looking back, I know that this failure was an essential moment of my career and it made me developing a stronger, more positive mindset that helped me stepping up my game.

Best,
Nina
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by paul gaudio 17.01.2018
Creativity and Sport, 5 simple truths. Thanks Andrea!
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by Sophie 25.09.2018
Totally agree Andrea! Such a nice story, thanks for sharing your insights. I have experienced the same - college golf teaches you so many great things on how to approach things in life!
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