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A flop is not a failure

Why innovation thrives on being able to reframe

Mexico City, Olympic Games, 1968. The stadium is packed, the wider world looks on via TV coverage. Everywhere there’s an air of expectancy but also an awareness that at such high altitude it’s going to be hard for athletes to beat their best. Records are there to be broken, you have to hope for something special.

And in the high jump event they weren’t disappointed. The record for men’s high jump had hovered around 2.23 m for several years. But a young 21-year-old was about to change that; Dick Fosbury, representing the USA broke this with a height of 2.24 m and won the gold medal. The ‘Fosbury flop’ as it quickly became known opened up new possibilities for the sport; within ten years it had become the dominant mode for all jumpers and helped move the world record to 2.45 m which was set in 1993 by Javier Sotomayor. These days anyone attempting the high jump has come to resemble the ‘fish flopping on the deck of a boat’ as one newspaperman described Fosbury’s Mexico model. What Fosbury’s feat reminds us of is the power of reframing in innovation. Innovation can take place anywhere along a continuum from doing what we do better — incremental — to doing something completely different — radical. And it can cover what we offer the world — product or service — and the ways we create a deliver that offering — process. That gives us plenty to keep us busy in our innovation day.

But sometimes we can reframe, look at what we’re doing in a different way, identify novel approaches. As this blogpost explores....

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