Fosbury Flops - how strange ideas became universal
If you have an idea that sounds ridiculous but might solve an important problem, hang on to it
In 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury shocked the world with a new technique that involved jumping backward over the bar and came to be known as the "Fosbury Flop".
Before Fosbury's innovation in the 1960s, high jumpers typically used the "straddle" or "scissors" techniques to clear the bar, which required the athlete to face the bar and lift their legs over it in a scissoring motion.
The Fosbury Flop technique, however, involved a backward approach to the bar, a curved running path, and a final backward leap over the bar with the jumper's back facing the ground. It allowed Fosbury to clear heights previously thought impossible, and he won a gold medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics using this technique.
This approach seemed strange and counterintuitive at first, but it ultimately revolutionized the sport and became the standard technique used by high jumpers today.
Stick with your strange ideas
Do you have a solution for a problem that seems strange, absurd, or ridiculous? At the same time, do you have a hunch that it might actually work? If so, then you may want to persevere and conduct mini-experiments to try out the idea in the real world. You may end up with a Fosbury Flop of your own!
Not inspired yet? There are countless examples in our everyday experience that were initially dismissed as outlandish and even unnecessary. However, looking back at them now, they seem obvious and we are unable to even imagine the initial skepticism. Let me share examples of four such ideas that are probably sitting at arm’s length from you right now…
1. QWERTY Keyboard
The QWERTY keyboard layout was intended to prevent mechanical jamming of the keys. The layout was designed in the early 1870s by Christopher Sholes, a newspaper editor and inventor from Wisconsin, USA. Sholes was working with his colleagues Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule to develop a mechanical writing machine that would be faster and more efficient than handwriting. However, this layout is not the most efficient, as it requires the typist to move their fingers across the keyboard more than necessary. Despite this, the QWERTY layout became the standard for typewriters as well as most computer keyboards available today.
The mouse was invented in the 1960s by Douglas Engelbart and Bill English as a way to interact with computers. At that time, the keyboard was the primary interface device, although trackballs, light pens, and other clever pointing devices were widespread. Engelbart's idea seemed unnecessary at first, but eventually, the mouse revolutionized computer interfaces and is now an essential tool for navigating graphical user interfaces.
3. Copier Machine
There was a time when people used carbon paper sandwiched between two sheets of plain paper to create multiple copies of a document. So when Chester Carlson invented the photocopier machine in the 1930s, the powers that be could not see the point of it. Wasn't carbon paper a cheaper solution that already worked?
Despite his patent, Carlson continued to struggle to find a company willing to invest in his technology. It wasn't until 1944 that he was able to convince the Haloid Company (later known as Xerox) to license his invention and develop the commercial copier machine based on his electrophotography process. The photocopier eventually became ubiquitous in offices around the world and is now taken for granted as an essential tool for document reproduction.
The first portable cassette player was developed by Sony in 1979 and was marketed as the Walkman. At the time, portable music devices were not yet widely used. However, the Walkman revolutionized how people listen to music and paved the way for the modern portable music player market. The iPod would not exist today if it weren't for the Walkman. The iPhone and other smartphones would not exist today if it weren't for the iPod. The Walkman is the true granddaddy of the smartphone sitting at your desk right now!
All of these examples illustrate the power of innovation and the importance of challenging conventional wisdom. By thinking outside the box and pursuing seemingly ridiculous ideas, innovators like Fosbury, Sholes, Engelbart, Carlson, and Sony have changed the world and left a lasting impact on society.
The Fosbury Flop was not just a revolutionary idea in the world of high jumping, but it serves as a reminder that sometimes the most innovative ideas can initially seem strange and counterintuitive. Through perseverance and ingenuity, these ideas can go on to become universal and even obvious to future generations.
Do you have an idea that might turn into the next Fosbury Flop?
I have tried all kinds of mice over the years in search of efficiency and ergonomics. Many of them served me well, but my current mouse is my favorite - the Logitech G604. While it is marketed as a gaming mouse, I am not a gamer, and I use it primarily to speed up my work as I navigate between applications and perform certain repetitive tasks. The mouse comes with an easy-to-use desktop app that can be used to customize every button on the device to suit your way of working.
AROUND THE WEB
If you have never encountered Simone Giertz, she is a force of nature. A Youtube content creator who invents silly things.
Here's Simone showing off her robotic arm that's programmed to feed her Cheerios for breakfast: click here. :-)
While they appear to be silly, they definitely have utility - and who knows, a budding inventor might get inspired to make the real thing!
Hope you enjoyed today’s post!