Many of us do not like “outside the box” thinkers. They threaten our anchors. They push our boundaries. They introduce new ways of looking at things, and as a result must often endure criticism, insult, and refrains such as, “It will never work” and “We’ve never done it that way before.”
Richard Douglas “Dick” Fosbury was an “outside the box” thinker. Now, he is one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field; but when he began changing the traditional high jump method at the age of 16, he was ridiculed. His coaches encouraged him to continue using the straddle method, but Fosbury knew he was on to something and kept practicing his back-first technique.
In 1964, a photograph of him performing his technique was widely distributed, and was reprinted in newspapers around the world. Many writers and editors made fun of the new technique, with one newspaper captioning the photograph, “World’s Laziest High Jumper.” The technique, which involved approaching the bar diagonally, going over the bar backwards, head-first, curving his body over the bar and kicking his legs up in the air at the end of the jump, gained the name the “Fosbury Flop” after a Medford, Oregon, newspaper reporter wrote that Fosbury looked like a “fish flopping in a boat.”
In 1968, Fosbury won the NCAA title. He won the United States Olympic trials that same year then went on to take the gold medal in the Mexico City Olympic Games. As you can imagine, editors, writers, and coaches began rethinking their position. Today, the Fosbury Flop is the most popular technique in modern high jumping, from the junior high level to the Olympic Games.
What if Dick Fosbury had listened to his coaches? What if he had caved to media pressure? What if he believed what others told him and stayed in the box? He would probably still have been a great athlete, but make no mistake – he would not have been a revolutionary athlete.
Instead of shutting employees and co-workers down, consider giving them room to pursue ideas, concepts, and possibilities that are “outside the box”. If your first word is always, “No,” then maybe you are in the box-making business instead of the box-freeing business.
Set the bar high. Give people room to pursue ideas and dreams. Your “flops” might actually lead to revolutionizing the way you do business.