Richard had two bad feet, a bad back, and a dream of being a star track & field athlete. His chosen sport was the high-jump; but he struggled to clear the minimum distance – five feet- required to make the high school track team. No amount of coaching or practice seemed to help. The proven techniques utilized by his teammates and world-class competitors didn’t work for him. He just couldn’t get himself over the bar.
So Richard began to experiment. Over several months he altered each aspect of his performance. He started by adjusting his approach. While every other athlete ran straight at the bar, he began to run at a diagonal. This gave him more speed in the final few steps.
He changed his takeoff, starting further and further from the bar. He worked at it until he found the launching point that would position him over the bar at the highest point of the jump. As the height increased, he found he needed more room to achieve apogee.
Traditional jumpers utilized a scissor kick to clear the bar, stretching out one leg and then the other before landing on their stomach. Richard started twisting his body in the air so that he cleared the bar headfirst and landed on his back. This allowed him to arch his back and kick his legs up simultaneously, creating precious space between himself and the bar.
Richard’s track coaches were worried. The methods he was using were unheard of. They feared his deviation from standard procedures would damage his ability to compete and possible lead to serious injury. But during his junior year he broke the high school record. Suddenly the critics became supporters.
After winning a series of competitions in college, Richard Douglas “Dick” Fosbury began to catch the eye of the press. They dubbed his technique the “Fosbury Flop.” During the 1968 Olympics, he won the gold medal by clearing 7 ft. 4.25 in., setting a new Olympic record in the process. Today, the flop is the most popular high-jump technique in use.
Its easy to get stuck in a rut. People do it and so do organizations. We get used to doing things a certain way and rarely question why. Most people fail to realize that greatness lies just a few tweaks away from the norm. Innovation is rarely about huge, radical changes; although even small change is typically met with strong resistance.
Innovation is a critical aspect of any thriving business. If you aren’t constantly looking for ways to improve, you’re doomed to stagnate. Those who are willing to change thrive – they can even flip an industry upside down. Those who aren’t fall into obsolescence – they flop. And anyone can be a catalyst for change.
Could your business benefit from a little innovation? Could your performance use some tweaking? What small change would make a huge difference in your success?