Why “Gretzky’s Rule” Represents the Past – Not the Future – of Product Innovation

Most of us have heard the advice that Walter Gretzky gave to his son Wayne, who became perhaps the greatest hockey player of all time: the key to success is to “skate where the puck is going, not to where it has been.”

It’s a wonderful statement about using everything at our disposal to look forward to the future, instead of the past. It has become one of the great PowerPoint clichés of our time. But few have questioned its validity in building out an innovation culture within a large organization.  In reality, “skating to where the puck is going” (from now on known as the “Gretzky Rule”) is undermining the high-impact innovation that product organizations want.

We need to first understand the environment that Gretzky worked within — the conditions that made it possible for him to be “where the puck was going.”

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