Dick Fosbury is one of the most influential athletes in the history, he completely revolutionized the high jump event, inventing a unique “back-first” technique, now known as the Fosbury Flop, adopted by almost all high jumpers today. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he took the gold medal and set a new record.
The high jump is a good example of changing the way we think about progress and became a means for improving performance.
The athletes jumped before Fosbury using this technique:
And this is the Fosbury Flop:
What did we learn about this process?
- It was not easy: Fosbury took 5 years in getting to the top of the innovation curve, at this point he was ready to compete. Changes within companies are difficult to implement, and returns are not achieved in the short-term.
- It was easier the status quo: The straddle technique was being used for centuries. While implementing major changes within the company, the resistance is though.
- There are always detractors: The USA Track & Field took more than 6 years to recommend the Fosbury flop, even knowing that technically it was superior to the straddle method. The investments in transformation, change and innovation are always criticised, but even today where there is a credit crunch and the global recession.
- Change was not quick: The Fosbury Flop took a decade to start being used by the athletes. Companies usually take too much time to assimilate the transformation produced by innovation projects. Complex and major projects are taking more time than planned.
- It was efficient and gave results: By using the Fosbury Flop the jump records increased by 10 centimeters.
- Change or die: Everyone who decided to ignore the innovation couldn’t compete
Reducing the gap between the theoretical best practice and even the demonstrated best practice is almost always a question of changing the existing way of thinking about how to increase performance.
This illustrates the idea that people can not simply be told to accept a new way of doing something, even if it will make progress happen.
People need to experience for themselves how adopting a new process will be beneficial and have to be taught this in a way that it makes sense to them.