What Leaders Can Learn From The Fosbury Flop

By Jim Woods Like us on Facebook 

Failure is as vital to innovation and life as the sun is to earth. No one goes unscathed. Certainly some more than ever. Yet life compels each of us, albeit sometimes kicking and screaming to find a new way where there SEEMED to be none because in the attempt we move forward. This change is evolutionary pushing the human race forward. It is the major aspect of our survival. In an organization it i quite the same. Failure in people and processes may seem meaningless. Some are forward progress and a some backwards progress. The recent Virgin Galactic explosion leaving one ma deceased and the other critically injured is an additional example. Fo as Sir Richard Branson said while he apologizes for the loss of life he recognized there is a greater mission for pressing on. In pursuit of aviation there were many deaths. Crashes were frequent. It is this striving for a new way that is elemental to humankind wherever we may be. The drive to pursue another way whether it is food stuffs, auto’s, parenting, education or whatever. We yearn to do more than thrive.

He is an unconventional thinker. To hire Jim as speaker or consultant please visit our website. 

In 1928 Amsterdam Olympics Bob King won the God medal with an unorthodox style. Most of us were raised with an idea of high jumping facing the bar. Watch the two contrasting styles. Because in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, nearly 40 years since Bob King’s jump, Dick Fosbury won the Gold Medal. His success in a highly unorthodox style set the world on fire. “While his rivals persisted with the traditional scissor kick, King’s technique gave him the edge. He ran in at an angle, raising his right leg level with the bar before tucking his left underneath.”

While King’s leap was illogical there was nothing quite like Dick Fosbury. In any activity be it business,sports etc, there are people who resist the unpredictability of change. The turbulence confuses them. They long like an electorate for calm stable, predictable times by which to cope with crisis. This what leaders and individuals mean when they say, “Wait for things to get back to normal.” Well, there has never a normal period in any part of human history. In a changing world predictability is tantamount to the pursuit of El Dorado.

Kings scissors kick became the classic style.

In the second video Dick Fosbury explains his style was the result of his failure as a high jumper. He was last on the team. Having attempted every other sport and failed he decided to try something new. It took him a while to perfect but when he did he had innovated something  that appeared to defy the law of physics. We know now he actually collaborated with the law not defied it.

In business few leaders have problems with the basics of predictability. They fail by being stoic and indecisive because they can’t handle ambiguity. People are the same. They wait for things to “get back to normal.” They hope for a change in regulations or legislation. When all along it was up to them.

What can be done?

Leaders and their teams can abandon previous formulas and premises and decisively turn ambiguity and complexity as allies in the new normal. Jim Woods

To hire Jim as speaker or consultant please visit our website. 


Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work www.jimwoodsgroup.com. He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website www.jimwoodsgroup.com.

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Posted in Creativity, Innovation, Leadership Mastery

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