What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the 1968 Olympic Games

John Greathouse is a General Partner at Rincon Venture Partners (infoChachkie.com). In this video he talks about what entrepreneurs can learn from the 1968 Olympic games.

  1. Remember that not all flops are failures
  2. Inventors: find new solutions for old or existing problems
  3. Innovators: apply old solutions in new & creative ways

Well it’s very true that not all flops in business or failures and certainly there are many things that you can experiment with and learn from even if that individual effort wasn’t successful, you can grow from it.

Example I like is Dick Fosbery who is a sophomore in high school. And he was frankly a mediocre track athlete, he was not a star, he was not a winner. And he was messing around one day and he started jumping over the high bar backwards and never been done before. His coach went over, he was very concerned that you’re going to get hurt and Dick said, you know, this just feels right for me. I just think this approach make sense. Instead, Dick ended up taking that all through his intercollegiate career. He was challenged. They tried to throw him out. They said it was unsafe, it was too unconventional and he didn’t listen to them. He made it all the way to the Olympics in Mexico City and he set the Olympic record by jumping backwards. In 1968, he was the only Olympic-- he was the only athlete who competed with what was later called the Fosbury Flop which is named after him. By 1980, there were only three athletes that we’re using the old approach which was called the straddling approach and by 1984 there was no one using the old approach.

So, it’s a case of when they first came on the market of the entrenched status quo, people wanted to get rid of it. When it was an undesputively better way to do it, the people adopted it really quickly. And if you think about someone who has trained their whole life to be an athlete of that level, it’s very hard to change your technique, I mean it’s extreme. So, it’s a remarkable rate of change in that sport from the old way to the new way.

I think there’s a lot of colliers to business as well. You know, there are sort of two types of business people. You have the classic inventor and I would say in this case, Dick Fosbery was an inventor in the sense that he came up with a new solution for existing problem. But you have more commonly innovators. So much better to say, to say, you know, I cannot, I don’t think I’m really an entrepreneur because I have never invented anything. Well, that’s hogwash. If you’re an innovator, if you’ve taken things and incrementally built upon them and found maybe an old solution and applied it in a new way. Or even applied either a new solution to an old problem, that’s more of an innovation, maybe you didn’t invent the actual solution, but you certainly were an innovator that brought value into the market by solving a problem that previously wasn’t solved in the way that you solve it.

So, after that, you have to go against the grain, you have to challenge the status quo or not be afraid of flopping because you never know that Fosbery Flop might end up changing the rules of the game for everyone.