When The Unnatural Becomes Natural

high-jump-athletes-womenwebSometimes doing something unnatural generates remarkable results. I appreciate the story of Dick Fosbury. He’s the guy that invented the “Fosbury Flop”. Up until the mid 1960’s, doing a feet-first, scissor-kick over the high-bar was the way everyone jumped the Olympic high bar. Seems natural enough. You see a high bar, run up to it, hop into the air, do a fancy little scissor kick, and ta-da you’ve jumped over it.

Dick Fosbury did something completely different and it was at least partly because he had bad feet from years of jumping feet first over the high bar. Dick decided it might be better to jump over the bar backwards. It certainly was easier on his feet. Why not take a couple steps, jump, turn your body, and drive through the jump head first and backwards? Coaches and friends told him to stop, but guess what? He got a gold medal and set an Olympic record in 1968. What’s more, the “Fosbury Flop” is how literally all high-jumpers have jumped ever since. Hindsight being 20/20, we now realize through science that the “Fosbury Flop” is highly efficient use of body dynamics and gravity. The feet-first approach, on the other hand, was as efficient as dragging a whale over dry pavement. What was initially very unnatural, is highly effective and now normal.

Brands and retailers have to start doing some unnatural things if they want to become relevant again. Maybe we’ll create a “PreeLine Pounce” at our company. The fact is sales are sputtering, consumers are disappearing, and margins are eroding. The natural tendency is to create more products, buy more inventory, use deeper discounts, and wreak more havoc. In other words–jump over an increasingly higher bar feet-first. Do any brands or retailers recognize how bad their feet hurt from all the pushing and promoting they do? The industry is practically hobbling, yet it continues to jump feet first with a cute little scissor kick, face forward—and SPLAT!

The unnatural thing to do would be to focus on fewer products, buy less inventory, and stop using deep discounts to sell your products. It can be done. And it would have a tremendously positive impact on your business, customers, employees, shareholders, and factories, as well as our environment. The truth is we have access to unprecedented insight with modern technologies. Consumers are social and mobile. Instead of allocating inventory to a store, as is the natural way to plan inventory, we should be planning products to the consumer. Let’s shoot for n-of-1. Know the customer, not the average.

Test, Engage, Ignite.

I am committed to inverting the process known as B2C. It needs to be done. It’s what the team at PreeLine does day in, day out because it a tremendous solve for a very big problem.

When you have the chance, do something unnatural. It’s how we grow. It’s how we learn. And it’s often how we advance ourselves.

As a closing note, be sure to tweet some good names and thoughts for versions of the “PreeLine Pounce” to me @dmlamer

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