Hannibal the innovatorManagement gurus often use The Art of War (written by Sun Tzu, published 5th Century BC) as an example of Leadership or to extract valuable Leadership lessons. Well are there any ancient texts, or at least people that we can learn from regarding how to be an Innovator?

Well I’m not sure about texts and I’m pretty sure that the word ‘Innovation’ was not around at the time (Hannibal lived 247-182 BC), however Hannibal did some pretty amazing things with the resources that he had available. You can read all about his exploits. Just Google the fellow, but a brief summary of his exploits provides some useful insights for innovators.

First of all Hannibal used an entirely new tool within his marketplace. He had at his disposal a number of highly trained elephants that could strike fear into his enemies (they made an incredible noise and had sharpened tusks) and upon which could be mounted soldiers. In effect these were ancient battle tanks.

Apart from his elephants, Hannibal chose to come at his enemy (competitors) from a completely new and unexpected direction. Although it was cold and very dangerous, he took his army across the Alps and shocked his enemy by ending up in northern Italy without using the normal route. Why not take a leaf out of Hannibal’s book and take a different route to your customers, one that is more direct and more effective than your competitors?

Like most modern businessmen, Hannibal was an astute strategist and tactician. He managed to forge alliances (how much networking do you do?) and manage his supply chain exceedingly well (he supplied his vast armies whilst a long way from home for some considerable time).  He also walked the talk, actually leading his armies across the Alps not just directing them from afar.

In summary Hannibal teaches us:

  1. To develop new products, services and business tools to keep us ahead of the competition
  2. To find new ways of getting to our customers that might bypass the cometition
  3. To network effectively
  4. To roll our sleeves up and get stuck in
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