Innovation has a factor of luck but we shouldn’t expect it to be like like a Lottery or Sports-bet

posted by Ravi Arora August 13, 2015

Betting started as early as 205 BC in China. In the early days, the lotteries tickets were distributed by rich people to present gifts to their guests. Later, in 15th century the public lotteries were conducted to raise funds for the war or specific purpose like building the Great wall of China or to repair the city of Rome or to help the poor.

Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? If no, why? And if yes, try and answer the following questions. It invokes very interesting thoughts!

  1. How much were you excited when you bought the ticket?
  2. Did you buy the lottery ticket consciously to win or due to some social obligation?
  3. How long did the excitement of buying ticket last?
  4. During the days after you purchased the ticket, did you track and remember the date when the results were to be announced?
  5. Were you optimistic about winning the lottery? Did you (day) dream about winning it?
  6. Did you finally check if you won the lottery?
  7. Do you recommend others to indulge? Have you yourself bought it more than once?

Do you know how many people don’t claim their lotteries? About $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year. More than 300 prizes worth $1 million or more went unclaimed in 2013. Why do you think so many lotteries go unclaimed? Why are people indifferent about their lottery tickets? The reasons for this indifference could be (i) People don’t have even an iota of hope of winning (ii) They are not serious about their investment or rather do not consider it as an investment and instead buy the ticket for fun. Most people do not bother to check for smaller prizes, once they do not see their name on the jackpot.

Contrast the lottery with Sports-betting, which is also a form of gambling. I am sure you must have heard about betting on horse-racing or cricket (illegal) or on any other sport or would have yourself played a game of Tambola or Roulette.

If you have participated in any of these, try to answer the same set of questions.

  1. How much were you excited when you bought the ticket or placed the bet?
  2. Did you bet consciously or was it due to some social obligation?
  3. How long did the excitement last? (Did it last till the end of process or just after placing the bet?)
  4. Were you optimistic about winning the bet? Did you fancy your chances of winning?
  5. When were the results known? Do you know if you won or lost?
  6. Have you done it more than once? Do you recommend others?

Do you see any difference in your responses? Both Lottery and Sports-bet/Tambola/Roulette are two different forms of bets, but the experience of users is quite different. Following are a few reasons:

  1. The buying or investing decision is far more involved in case of Horse-race or any other Sports-bet as compared to buying a lottery ticket. Lot of knowledge about the sport, the sportsmen, the team, the coach, the conditions, history etc. is considered to assess the winning probability.
  2. In case of Horse-racing or Tambola, the investor is engaged with the process as soon as the investment is done. In some cases, engagement is an integral part of the process. There is no engagement, whatsoever, for the investor in case of a lottery ticket.
  3. The process is much shorter for Sports-bet or Roulette as compared to lottery ticket.
  4. Chances of winning (stakes) could change every minute or even every second in case of Sports-bet or a Tambola. This keeps the excitement high for investors and also for audience. sports-bet like horse-racing offers investors several opportunities to re-invest even after the race has begun.

How are innovations managed in your organization? Are innovation projects like the lottery ticket and managers have a choice to invest or not to invest? Are the investments in innovation not taken seriously like the new-year-resolutions and lottery tickets, which are bought for fun or bragging? For those who invest in innovation, is there an excitement in the organization and active engagement of innovators? Do people forget investments made in innovation and can accounting system help?  Do investments in innovation and progress thereafter result in adrenaline-rush for innovators and others (cheerleaders) and do you see emotional outbursts?

I have a point-of-view on all the above questions, which I would share in my future posts.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling
  3. http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/09/pf/unclaimed-lottery-winners/
  4. http://www.lottery.co.uk/info/unclaimed-lottery-prizes.asp
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_betting