Would you jump out of an airplane without a parachute? Probably not.
Travis Pastrana did. Three years ago, he got off a plane in Puerto Rico together with two other skydivers that in contrast to him had parachutes on their back. Someone in the air between the plane and the ground, he joined one of the other two, connected himself to him and they finished the rest of the dive as a tandem (for the video: click here).
But skydiving is not the only sport Pastrana is active in. He also competes in a host of motor sports, the extremer, the better: From freestyle motocross to rally, from NASCAR to monster trucks. In whatever he does, he isn’t afraid to take a hit (“I don’t remember most of the injuries, there have been too many”) – one of the reasons why his fans love him.
As with all kinds of “extreme” people, Pastrana also polarizes – he has followers that love whatever he does while others think it’s completely useless, dangerous and ridiculous.
However, with no matter what Pastrana does he is pushing boundaries. Take freestyle motocross, where he was the first man ever to do a motorcycle back flip and, a couple of years later, a double back flip (check it out here). He probably did more for the development of this sport than anyone else.
Earlier this year he pulverized the record for ramp-to-ramp car jumping when he “flew” 269 ft. (82 m), which is 98ft (30m) further than the old record (see it here) .
Pastrana is totally dedicated to advance things. Yes, it’s extreme, yes, it would be a disaster if everybody was like him, but he develops the fields he is active in further and has that inner fire that forces him to go where no one has gone before.
Travis Pastrana is someone who makes a difference. If he competes in an event, people will come, just because they want to see what he has in store this time.
Everybody who ever attended at least one marketing lesson knows how important it is to be different from competitors and to innovate. How badly would most companies need a Travis Pastrana!
Now if you think about your company: Can you imagine Travis Pastrana would work there? Probably your answer is as negative as it was when I asked if you would sky dive without a parachute.
Probably he would be bored to death, probably he would be annoyed by the structures, politics and hierarchies, probably he would be missing the challenges and probably he would be irritated by those that believe what he wants to do is “useless, dangerous and ridiculous” (see above).
What a dilemma – we would need to have the Pastranas of the business world in our companies to change them, but they would never come before we have the companies changed.
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail: The Pastrana types are not concerned about security, but about opportunities. That’s maybe a good starting point. If our companies are not ready to accommodate their needs on the long run, why not start with a short term?
For Travis Pastrana, everything he does is a short project on its own. After sky diving without a parachute he goes for car jumping. What will be next? Who knows?!
Why don’t we just find those areas where we really could use someone pushing boundaries, maybe a product area where we fail to differentiate, maybe a service with which we fail to earn some market share because there are too many others offering exactly the same. Then define a challenge and make it a project. Define a start and an end date, but don’t define a result.
Get people in that may have a completely different background from anyone else in your existing teams. Give them all freedom they need and challenge them to push the boundaries. And most importantly: Keep the naysayers away from them.
By doing so you create an offer that is attractive to the Pastrana type of managers, yet your risk is limited as you just hire them for a short period of time and can then see how it goes.
If your company is not ready and flexible enough to create this kind of opening: Just don’t bother. It wouldn’t be able to cope with the new approaches anyway.