A single innovative idea can redefine the boundaries of what’s considered possible. This truth is vividly illustrated by the evolution of the ski jumping world record, which has seen remarkable progress over the decades. As of now, the record stands at an astonishing 246.5 meters, held by Johan Remen Evensen. The journey to this point, however, is a story of bold ideas and relentless pursuit of excellence, reminiscent of the transformative impact seen across various sports disciplines.

Let’s go back to 1987, when ski jumping was up for a revolutionary change. At that time, the record was held by Piotr Fijas and Matti Nykänen, with a leap of 194 meters. It wasn’t until seven years later that the 200-meter barrier was finally broken. Fast forward to today, and we are on the brink of surpassing the 250-meter mark. This rapid evolution began with Jan Boklöv from Koskullskulle, Sweden. Despite a mediocre debut in 1986, Boklöv returned to win the World Cup in ski jumping in the 1989/90 season, introducing the world to his disruptive idea: the V-Style.

And here is what he did:


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By 1990, the V-Style had become the norm for ski jumpers, though it took the judges and the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) two more years to adjust their scoring to appreciate this new technique. Jan Boklöv’s disruptive creation is a testament to the impact of challenging the status quo, similar to the revolution sparked by Dick Fosbury’s “Fosbury Flop” in high jumping during the 1968 Summer Olympics and Bill Koch’s introduction of the “skating” technique in cross-country skiing, which led to the creation of a new category in the sport.

These pioneers did not set world records, but they indeed broke the unwritten rules of their sports, demonstrating that innovation often stems from the willingness to take risks and challenge conventional wisdom.

So, How ‘Jan Boklöv’ Are You?

What lessons can leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators learn from Jan Boklöv’s journey and his single disruptive idea that changed the world of ski jumping?

Firstly, success should not make you complacent. Questioning the status quo, even when it means challenging your achievements and beliefs, is crucial. This approach carries inherent risks, but as Oscar Wilde famously said, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Striving for the best requires pursuing your groundbreaking idea with determination.

Consider these questions to reflect on your willingness to embrace innovation:

  • Are you prepared to sacrifice your current achievements for a new idea you passionately believe in, even if you’re already experiencing success?
  • Can you withstand criticism from the media, face skepticism for deviating from the norm, and endure opposition from peers and family?
  • Are you resilient enough to face repeated failures and still maintain belief in your vision?
  • Will you prioritize long-term impact over immediate financial gains or short-term successes?

If your answers lean towards a resolute ‘yes,’ you might be on the path to making a significant impact, much like Jan Boklöv and other great achievers who faced similar challenges but never gave up. Embrace a mindset that questions and rethinks established norms and beliefs. While the V-Style in ski jumping was initially seen as a mistake, it ultimately led to unprecedented success and changed the sport forever.

Neither Jan Boklöv, Dick Fosbury, nor Bill Koch may have broken world records, but their willingness to experiment and challenge traditional methods led to groundbreaking achievements. As Tom Peters, a revered management thinker, once said, “If you try a lot of things, one might work!”

Your one idea has the potential to illuminate and transform the world. Embrace it with courage, resilience, and an unwavering belief in its power to effect change.


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