In 1968 Dick Fosbury took the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in the high jump. Aside from the great achievement of winning the gold Mr Fosbury drew great attention to himself because he did it using a technique that nobody else was using that year or any Olympics prior. A technique he had been perfecting for three years, now known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’; is now used by every high jumping Olympian.
When first hearing about this I was filled with the same kind of excitement that a child gets when they prove their parent wrong for the first time, that feeling that you have the ability to think of a better idea. Throughout my life I, like many, have tried to come up with good ideas for how to live and work but I think people should go further than that strive for that change in paradigm that can transform how something is seen to the rest of the world.
As I started my career I found it difficult to attempt any of this as I’d get shot down with the “this is how business is done” mentality, which I find both disheartening and frankly irritating. I do understand the importance of experience, great things can be achieved from listening to someone who has been through it all; however, I think it is naïve to just accept that without criticism. If someone says this is how we do it here at Organisation X I will always question why, this of course has got me in some trouble in the past but none the less I feel I should get an answer.
Organisations need to be able to facilitate open discussions that allow the question why and justify explanations when faced with scrutiny, else how on earth are they expected to develop? There is a particular saying that goes around that seems to have the lyrical rhythm to it that makes such phrases so appealing: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. This expression is something that represents the mentality of a population willing to accept the way things are as they are. This placid mentality is something that is damaging to any organisation, not in the explosive, corruptible way, but in the way that if you leave milk out for too long it’ll curdle.
If there is nothing in place in an organisation to encourage critical thought that organisation is wasting the key resource that is has, the innovation of an employee. A passionate employee will always strive to improve the company around them, but even the most enthusiastic of us start shutting up when we realise no one is listening. There’s one thing saying you’re open to discussion and you’re an innovative organisation but what actual policies do you have to allow the next “Fosbury Flop” to happen?
“When you reach that elite level, 90 percent is mental and 10 percent is physical. You are competing against yourself. Not against the other athlete.”
~ Dick Fosbury, Champion Olympic High Jump Athlete