The Fosbury Flop – A look at Innovation, Constant Change, and Improving Performance

Organizations today must innovate and constantly change in order to compete.  Competition at the Olympic Games is similar to the world of business: you win with preparation, dedication, focus and hard work.   The ongoing challenge in the Olympics or business is to beat out the competition, who continues to raise the bar.
Let’s compare business with the High Jump.  In this track and field event, each participant must jump over a horizontal bar held up by two vertical posts.  The object of the event is simple: jump over the horizontal bar without knocking it off the vertical posts.  The one to jump clear of the bar at its highest point is the winner.  Do you see the connections?  In business, we compete with someone who is always trying to do what we do, just slightly different or better.  In order to win, we have to elevate our game to surpass whatever the competition is doing.

Innovate, Change, and Stretch the Limit
The High Jump has changed dramatically over the past 100 years.  Its evolution has spanned from different jumping styles, to increased running speed on the approach, to using new approach angles.  The best athletes take a good idea or training method and improve, enhance, and refine it further to create a competitive edge.

Straight and Scissor Jump
Early participants jumped over the bar with a straight on approach, much like a giant hurdle.  Competitors quickly changes to a scissor approach where the competitor would approach the bar diagonally and throw the inside leg, and then the outside leg, over the bar.  In 1958, Michael Sweeney set a new world record for a height of 6 feet, 5.26 inches with a scissor type approach.

Western Roll or Straddle Jump
George Horine, a great competitor in his time, applied his improvements to the current method and developed a jumping technique known as the Western Roll.  In this instance, a competitor approaches the bar in a diagonally and uses their inner leg to push off the ground, while the other leg is thrust over the bar with the body following in an upright motion.  His simple adjustments to the previous method led to a new world record in 1912 of 6 feet 7 inches.

Straddle Jump
The Straddle Jump was very similar to the Western Roll, but again slightly different and often more effective.  During the take off, jumpers rotated themselves to face downward as they launched their body over the bar.  Again, this was a simple change, but it pushed the limits of competition and the set the new World Record in 1960 at 7 feet, 4 inches.

Fosbury Flop
During the 1968 Olympics, Dick Fosbury introduced the world to yet another innovation known today as the Fosbury Flop.  This technique was executed by running towards the crossbar and thrusting the head and shoulder over the bar first in a face up motion, landing on the back.  This twist in technique secured an Olympic Gold Medal for Dick Fosbury and has changed the sport ever since, pushing new heights and records.   At the time of this writing, Javier Sotomayor of Spain, who used the Fosbury Flop, owns the current World Record at 2.45 meters (8 feet, 0.45 inches) in 1993 for men.  Stetfka Kostadinova, who also used the Fosbury Flop, owns the World Record for women at 2.09 meters (6 feet, 10.28 inches).

The Need to Constantly Flop
In business, every individual must be boldly changing the way they accomplish their work.  Through innovation, everyone can improve their results and drive distinctive value.  As with the High Jump, innovation and change is not simply a one-time leap, but a survival behavior we must all perform in order to stay competitive.

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About the Author

Chris Stowell

Christopher Stowell is currently serving as CMOE’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing where he works with multi-national organization to develop their people. His special interests lie in coaching teamwork, strategy, e-learning, and assessment design, and delivery. Chris has a special talent in helping companies assess their organizational effectiveness and identifying key issues and opportunities in order to advance their performance and achieve long term results. Additionally, he has extensive experience in designing, coordinating, and facilitating customized adventure based experiential training events for high performance teams.