Mackay: Innovate or stagnate

If you are a track and field fan, you probably know all about the “Fosbury flop,” a story that tells a world of things about innovation, persistence and a burning desire to win.

Dick Fosbury was a good high jumper and he seemed to have reached the maximum height his body could clear. But he kept an open mind and began to experiment with every different way a body could be propelled over the bar.

The style he finally developed was different from anyone else had ever seen. The jump is done head first, with the flat of the back clearing the bar and then the knees are drawn up, jackknife fashion. When people first saw him do it, they went away shaking their heads.

But in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Dick Fosbury set a new Olympic high-jump record and won a gold medal for the United States. It was a triumph born of fresh thinking and dogged experimentation. Today, many of the world’s best high jumpers base their jumping style on the Fosbury flop.

“Business has only two functions,” wrote management guru Peter Drucker, “marketing and innovation.”

Innovation is what drives our great country. Look at all the great innovative companies, such as Bill Gates’ Microsoft, Steve Jobs’ Apple and Howard Schultz’s Starbucks. These innovative leaders found a new or better way of doing something.

Domino’s pizza shocked the industry with the original idea of guaranteeing pizza delivery in 30 minutes.

Amway introduced multilevel marketing and turned a garage-based company with a quality product, unique packaging and distinctive labeling into a corporate giant.

Other great companies have done similar innovative things. Look at Coke and all its combination of products in cans, plastic and glass bottles. Certainly no list of innovative companies would be complete without Google, Amazon or Facebook.

It’s no wonder my good friend Denis Waitley says, “Innovators anticipate or create a need and fill it.”

Innovations don’t always come from big companies, though. I saw a study that listed 61 basic inventions, and only 16 were discovered by big companies. For example, Leo Gerstenzang thought of Q-Tips when he saw his wife trying to clean their children’s ears with toothpicks and cotton balls.

The Hewlett-Packard Co. was famously founded in a one-car garage by William Hewlett and Dave Packard. It has become one of the world’s most innovative and successful technology companies, but it’s never lost sight of its founders’ original vision. According to legend, these rules on innovation were posted in the garage:

• Believe you can change the world.

• Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.

• Know when to work alone and when to work together.

• Share — tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.

• No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)

• The customer defines a job well done.

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