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Learning from the Fosbury Flop

16 August 2016

The 2016 Rio Olympics are about to kick off and, in celebration, we have been thinking about some of the great moments of athletics and what they can teach us in terms of skills to apply to business.

The 2016 Rio Olympics are about to kick off and, in celebration, we have been thinking about some of the great moments of athletics and what they can teach us in terms of skills to apply to business.

In the summer Olympics of 1968 Dick Fosbury shocked the world and revolutionised his sport. Before then high jumpers had first used the ‘western roll’ and they later ‘straddled’, a technique used by many in that event. However, Fosbury had been using a different technique for a few years; enabled by the introduction of new technology in the form of deep foam crash mats. His competitors preferred to stick to tried and tested methods, and even his coaches advised against deviating from the norm. However, Fosbury took a risk and ‘flopped’ his way to, not only a gold medal but also, record breaking success. Today, nearly 50 years on, the Fosbury Flop is still the dominant high jump technique.

The method Fosbury used was seen as dangerous and risky, causing him to be dubbed ‘Fearless Fosbury.’ By using methods which they were familiar with his competitors didn’t fail – they may have still cleared the bar - but it was only by being ‘fearless’; willing to take a risk and try a new approach, that Fosbury gained his success.

Fosbury is a living example of the old adage ‘if you don’t try, you won’t succeed’ and the same goes for your business. You may be getting by on traditional methods, but if you are looking to succeed you need to be willing to embrace change and try new things.

Willingness to take risks is a key factor in not only successful businesses, but those that are resilient; a quality that is of growing importance in uncertain business environments. Being less afraid of failure is also a key to creativity and driving innovation. In increasingly uncertain times, taking a risk will seem more worrying than ever, however, it is also more necessary than ever before. 

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