“Yo! Hero!”

“Yo! Hero!” only louder this time, and followed by a series of high-pitched whistles. But Hero had more important things on his mind and continued on his errant direction, much to the frustration of Mr McLennan, the shepherd, and the complete amusement of the watching crowd.

The occasion was the annual Sheep Dog Trials at Scarista on the Isle of Harris. People had come from all over the United Kingdom. And the weather had come from the Mediterranean – we had an uncharacteristically warm, dry day! The field was set up with styles, gates and all manner of other things that each dog, ably guided by his master, had to negotiate. All, that is, apart from Hero!

There was a breathtaking display from most of the dogs. The sheep were released from a pen at the other end of the field, some 500 meters or more away. The sheep dogs, guided often by little more than a variety of different whistles from the stationary shepherd at the opposite end of the field, tore off down towards the sheep. The idea was to take a circuitous route so that the dogs could creep up on the sheep and catch them unawares. As the dogs approached the sheep, they dropped to the sort of low crouch that you see a domestic tabby cat adopt when they are stalking sparrows in a suburban garden. And then they were in the midst of the animals, darting this way and then doubling back, barking all the while, and keeping the sheep in as tight a flock as possible. Then, guided again by the shepherds whistles, the dogs brought them back down the field, through one gate and then another, until finally they were penned, right in front of the crowd. As I said – it was just breathtaking!

Now that was how things were supposed to go – but Hero had other ideas this particular day. Early on, instead of taking to the left of the field, he went to the right. After no more than 20 seconds, he stopped, turned, and looked towards his master as if to say,

“Why am I here again?”

Mr McLennan whistled, and gesticulated and shouted. Hero turned, and resumed his race up the field. This time, it was only 10 seconds before he stopped again, turned and looked expectantly towards his master. He seemed to have got the message second time around. He set off purposefully towards the sheep – for no more than 20 meters before veering off to the right and disappearing altogether. Mr McLennan put his hand up to shield his eyes, peered into the general direction of Hero’s last sighting and then left the field to the remaining contestants.

Another dog was dispatched to recover the sheep and that was the last we saw of Hero that day!

“He’s getting old!” he said with a wry smile as he passed the judge, and went to get on with the rest of his day.

“Good for Hero!” is what I say. There was clearly something of greater interest in the long grass to the right of the field. And he was brave enough to go his own way. It’s all too easy to go with the crowd. Yet innovation is all about the exact opposite. It’s about leaving the crowd and trying something different. So why not take a leaf out of Hero’s book and go your own way! Sure this is uncharted territory and the risks will be legion. And you’ll definitely need a thick skin – but think of all the fun you’ll have along the way!