Fosbury’s story offers two lessons that extend far beyond the world of high jumping.
First, his success came during a period when the environment of the sport had changed, but everyone was still following old patterns of behavior. Even though the switch to foam landing pits allowed athletes to experiment with a wider range of jumping techniques, everyone continued to do the same old thing until Fosbury came along.
This is exactly why you see startups completely disrupt established industries. Take the transportation company Uber, for example. Taxis were the standard way to get around town for decades. At some point, mobile phones and constant internet access became the norm in our daily lives, but everyone continued to flag down taxis and pay for them the old-fashioned way. The environment had changed, but the behavior stayed the same.
Then one day Uber came along and said, “Use your phone to request a car, we’ll pick you up wherever you are at, and you can easily pay through your phone.” Today, Uber is the biggest taxi company in the world.