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Don’t Always Trust The Experts

February 20, 2018

She wasn’t supposed to be there. Ester Ledecka, a world champion snowboarder from the Czech Republic was standing on the wrong podium. She was standing on the top of the Women’s Super G medal podium. Someone who was ranked only 33rd best in the world in the Super G had somehow beaten the world’s best. And she did it by the “wrong” methods.

Super G is an abreviation for Super Giant Slalom. It’s considered a speed race. Not as fast as the downhill, but faster than the slalom and giant slalom. Racers have to traverse a series of gates while going downhill, very fast.

Ledecka’s normal event is the Ladies’ Parallel Giant Slalom Snowboarding. She’ll compete in that on Saturday. She only skied the Super G this week because another skier dropped out due to race conditions. Because Ledecka didn’t come to the Olympics with the plan to ski the Super G, she didn’t bring her skis. Instead, she borrowed a pair.

Why did she win? And what was wrong about it? The answer to the first question is she made it down the hill faster than any other woman. She won by an incredible .01 seconds. The smallest possible margin of victory. Her time was 1:21:11. The answer to the second question is really the answer to the first question.

Those of you saying it can’t be done need to get out of the way for those of us who are doing it.

History is full of things that couldn’t be done. And later stories of the people who did them. The four minute mile was an unbreakable barrier until, in 1954, a British running named Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4.

While working for a large nonprofit organization, my team wanted to overhaul the email system we used for our 50,000 volunteers. I was new to the company. I was kindly coached by those who had been there longer than I had that I should just forget it. It was a fool’s errand to attempt to switch to a newer system. Others had tried and it was just too entrenched. They wanted to spare me the disappointment of failure.

As you probably guessed, we successfully moved to a new email system. We simply didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so we went out and did it.

A company runs on its processes. You have to have a sense of order and procedures. The bigger the company the more vital an organized system of operations is. And, as an IT owner, I like the process manual. However, I’ve built a career on at times going my own way. Nothing succeeds like success. Or said another way, asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission.

There have been times where I’ve run the numbers and am confident that I can get my team, my project, my programs from point A to point B faster by going my own way. In these cases, it really doesn’t take much bravery to be a rebel. The trick is to stay off the radar long enough to get over your target area. At that point, it’s impossible for people to call you back and you’ve already achieved your goal.

More challenging is the second situation. Where I don’t know if my crazy idea will work or not. Maybe my way will get us to where we need to be faster. But then again, maybe we’ll crash and burn and I’ll have to work on that ask for forgiveness piece.

I’ve been doing what I’m doing for a long time. I wish I could explain how to know when it’s the right time to follow process and how to recognize those rare times where you simply need to march to the beat of your own drummer. I don’t even do it consistently well for myself, I would hate to try to tell others how to do it.

But, I can tell you, when you take a different path and it works out, it’s an amazing feeling. Nothing is quite so sweet as having them whoever they are, tell you it can’t be done and then going out and doing it anyway.

And that brings us back to Gold Medalist Ester Ledcka. On borrowed skis, in an event she had not prepared for, she was the fastest down the hill because she didn’t know “the best” line. The more experienced skiers all followed the same basic path through the course. Ledcha, lacking their experience, had to make her own way and find her own path down the mountain. She ended up choosing a more aggressive, more dangerous, and ultimately faster path. If she had simply a little more experience, she would have known that it couldn’t be done.

She has a gold medal as thanks for going the wrong way.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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