Can you remember how athletes used to perform the high jump? The only method used to be the Scissors where the athlete lifted the lead leg up and over the bar followed, if fortunate, by the rest of the body. The best height that this method achieved was just over 6ft and that seems even miraculous.
There were several techniques such as the Western Roll that followed until an athlete called Dick Fosbury revolutionised the sport with what became known as the Fosbury Flop, a technique that had the athlete going over the bar almost backwards and certainly leading with the head and shoulders with the legs hopefully following later.
The current world record using this method and which was set in 1999 is just over 8ft.
The question is: who ever uses the scissors or the western roll today? Indeed, it would be fascinating even to see these old methods and compare them with today’s.
The point is that Dick Fosbury dared to be different and by being so he revolutionised the whole sport both in method and performance.
In swimming, the butterfly stroke was originally conceived as an improvement on the conventional breaststroke and was so successful that the ruling bodies decided that it deserved a place of its own.
I remember an old leg break bowler in our cricket club whose bowling action was akin to that of a demented octopus and who terrified opposing batsmen who were constantly unable to decide where the next weird delivery was coming from and more importantly what it was going to do.
All of these geniuses dared to be different and didn’t care what others thought of them; they had their methods and that was sufficient.
The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, leave it alone” has some value but I recently heard someone say “if it ain’t broke, break it and then fix it!”
Whatever we do in business can and frequently does become routine and we occasionally wonder why it is that performance is poor or at best flat lining. Just look at the productivity statistics for the UK and this becomes very apparent.
Perhaps then we should start to question everything that we do. We should ask why we do something that way and crucially why are we doing it anyway. Indeed one of my Vistage colleagues in the USA recently wrote that we need to ask ourselves how could this fail?
Just take a look at some of the really innovative businesses that have emerged recently and are being justly described as being disruptive; Tesla which is a business based on battery technology but which has built the first really effective electric automobile, Uber a software company that has revolutionised the taxi business worldwide and doesn’t own one taxi and Amazon itself, the first port of call to buy almost anything these days that originally dared to sell books online.
Breaking the rules should not just be the province of the maverick in business (and, by the way, I firmly believe that every business should have one) but it should be an automatic reaction that allows new and innovative ideas to find space to flourish.
If you break the rules of the game you can change the game itself and that might be just what is needed in a business especially one that is, to be kind, approaching maturity.
We need to pull ourselves out of that comfort and complacency zone into which we can very easily fall and impart considered and exciting change perhaps even to shock people into a realisation that the status quo isn’t necessarily nirvana.
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