And I’m Not Talking About Pole Vaulting

This article was first published on BizCatalyst360 here, in answer to an article that a fellow contributor had written.

I read – and of course commented – on a recent article in BIZCATALYST 360° – a fine publication that if you don’t already track, follow and read … you should.

Great organizations pole-vault over the bar of their past successes and continue raising the Bar along with their goals. It is these Pole – Vaulting teams which set the pace of what their followers will one day benchmark. Industries that are going through disruption must stop benchmarking the past doing so is the game of Limbo.

Ray Stasieczko

Hard to argue with that … but I want to look at the challenge through a different lens – whilst keeping the metaphor, because, I have to say, I like the visual and it provided a great analogy, but somehow, I felt there was more, well not so much ‘more’ .. as different.

Here’s The Problem

Pole vaulting has an associated implication that is described in the article of ‘leaping ahead’ – ‘accelerating past’ …. all good stuff in this crazy world of ‘disruption’ that all the ‘punters’ (if you will pardon the ‘pun’) talk about. I mean … just ask the hare.

But, in business we are beginning to understand that the ‘disruptive’ approach isn’t always the best approach (and if you are wondering about that – just give Travis Kalanick a call.)

BTW, that link takes you to latest of a series of articles I have written over the past two years pointing out the problems with Uber that people just seemed to keep on ignoring. Since then (February, when I wrote this one) everyone has climbed aboard that particular wagon.

Meanwhile, beyond predicting the demise of Uber back in February, we start to see the parallels to the sport. For example, did you know that Pole Vaulting is the most dangerous ‘Track and Field’ event. And to see what I mean, just ask this guy.

The fact is that it is possible to keep ahead and change and move without ‘disruptive revolution’ and in fact, this might just be the way to succeed.

So let’s take that pole and use it not to leap ahead, but instead, use it to navigate the waters. Just as we have been doing for aeons – long before modern pole vaulting came into being.

I would argue that it is equally possible to take that pole and use it to navigate your ‘punt’ [how do you like that play on words:-) ] through the waters and marshes of modern day business. We used to do that before the industrialisation of business resulted in bigger and bigger boats travelling through wider and wider rivers and purpose-built canals.

Somehow, on the way we lost sight of why we are on those journeys. And we forgot to maintain the waterways. And the boats got bigger, to the point that there are few waterways left for them to travel through. And ‘we the people’ that those boats were meant to be serving also got forgotten.

So perhaps once again the small boats, the agile boats, the nimble boats can be brought back and bit my bit those boats can be used to beat those liners (not at their own game – but by redefining the game – by going back to the roots of the journey) … and as those boats compete with each other we realize that it isn’t a question of dropping an outboard motor on your boat. That might not be suitable. But, by taking that pole to help you punt through areas that otherwise can’t be reached – push through swampy and wetlands – navigate narrow streams that oars cannot take you down – that pole will help you – and you will win.

And I am not arguing one approach over the other. All I want is that you understand which approach will serve you the best, in your business. And if you are wondering how you might work that out – well I can highly recommend the brain and books of Simon Wardley.