The history of High Jumping across the last century has proven how thinking about the same problem in different ways can yield dramatic step-change improvements in results.
Results that can completely outclass, surprise and leave the competition way behind.
It proved how to achieve results that no-one thought was possible in the category. People can jump over 2,5 times higher than they could in the 1900s.
The image below shows how people reinventing the ways to do high jumping caused step change in results. When people used the “Scissors” style the world record was around 1.65 metres. Today it is almost a full metre higher. This was achieved by a series of process step changes: The “Western Roll” in the 1920s. After 25 years came the “Straddle”. Then in 1968 things were step changed again at the 1968 Olympics by Dick Fosbury who broke the world record by 3 inches with the “Fosbury Flop”.
The problem never changed. Just the way that people thought about solving it.
The challenge was to find a way to jump higher than anyone else could. Some people focused on how to fine tune the technique that was popular at the time. While others thought less about incremental improvements on the present solution, but on a completely new solution.
The result was they literally left those trying to compete by fine tuning and improving the current solution behind.
Reminding us of the risks of focusing on optimising and improving what works today for our brands and category.
Companies and Brands tend to focus on what has worked for them in the past, and is working for them today. So they work on how to optimise and make incremental improvements on the model that is delivering the results. However, all too often someone who is not constrained by this thinking will come along and shake up the category in unexpected ways. Such as iTunes did with the music business. Or Pampers did with disposable diapers that replaced washable cotton diapers and liners, and also helped reduce nappy rash by keeping babies drier reducing the risk of rash.
Summary: Heights jumped today by high jumpers would never have been believed possible by jumpers in the early 1900s. This was caused by people looking at the problem in a new way. Trying to find the answer by thinking differently, versus trying to optimise and fine tune the current. Something brand owners and business leaders need to also remember.
Action: Ask yourself: are you too focused on optimising the present, rather than creating the future solution?