Fosbury Effect

Dick Fosbury RIP. An athlete responsible for changing an entire discipline. Which in turn helped frame any progress phenomenon.

I came across the Fosbury Effect during B-School. Via the Quality movement, which was enjoying its highest profile at that time.

The story is one of true legend.

Teenage high jumper gets frustrated at the way things were working as a college athlete. Comes up with a new way of jumping. Performance drops as the new way falls short of the current one. Despite the gap, he perseveres. Then, eventually, five years on, the glory of the sorpasso.

And he stuns the world by then beating his competitors who remained wedded to the old way to Olympic Gold in 1968.

His flop then universally adopted as the new back-first orthodoxy over the now superseded scissors, straddle or western-roll.

Interestingly there's a possible example of convergent evolution. As totally separately, along similar lines (albeit perhaps slightly later) the Brill Bend was conjured by future World Number One from Canada, Debbie Brill. As Dick himself put it, “I guess it did look kind of weird at first but it felt so natural that, like all good ideas, you just wonder why no one had thought of it before me.”

I referenced such 'discomfort dips' in my book, 101 Diagrams That Sell. Specifically number 94, looking at Change Curves.

The parallel for business performance - or any endeavour requiring pursuit of the new over old method - is that when first embarking on the new method, to expect and accept the immediate fall in results. Keep the faith, and you'll bottom out, before climbing back. Eventually outdoing your old scores.

There's the obvious caveat that not all new methods are pre-destined to better the old.

Especially striking here since Fosbury was following no more than a hunch. No evidence existed to guarantee ultimate improvement.

A keen eye needed for the nicest of balance with further iteration and #failfast.

We in Sales do have a mountain of proof for certain switch-ups of our own.

Principal among them is the migration from focus on outcomes to instead pursue progress thinking.

What's also useful, is how this can be used to help prospects understand what may lay ahead of them. Should they be conscious that they seek to shift behaviour from one norm to another as a consequence of buying from you.

In which case, the summoning of this young athlete's genius could gain you a gold medal too.

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