Barefoot Ted: A Change Agent Like No Other

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

Every year, thousands of runners are injured due to leg and foot pain. In response, athletic-shoe companies have invested fortunes into high-tech cushioning, arch support, and shock absorbers. But despite these efforts, as many as six out of 10 runners get injured every year.

A great fiction story…or not?

In his latest book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall describes an epic adventure that began with one simple question: ‘Why does my foot hurt?‘ In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Born to Run is a compelling story, a page turner full of incredible adventures and a cast of characters worthy of Dickens. So as a reader you may think you are reading a great fiction story. Until … you go surfing on the web and you find out that every fact and character of the book is real.


Barefoot Ted (BFT), for example is one of those amazing characters that have helped McDougall to the flip the question: If shoes are not the solution, could they possibly be the problem?

Barefoot Ted is a phenomenon. On his website he describes himself as “committed to re-discovering our primordial human potential”. And boy, is he committed! For more than a decade, BFT is being the change he wants to see in the world.

He does not ‘fight’ the old paradigm. Rather he:
– is evidence of the new paradigm
– embraces every positive evidence he can find;
– builds a community of fans and has devoted his whole existence to barefoot running;

BFT as an Organizational Change Practitioner

And there is more. BFT has interesting things to share about paradigm shifts and how they occur. Insights that are highly relevant to us a organizational change practitioners implementing SAP.

As you can imagine barefoot running is a hot topic in runner’s circles and far beyond because shoe companies and just about half of the medical world’s advice is at stake: barefoot running rocks the status quo.

Slowly but surely, there are shoe companies that have adapted to the virtues of barefoot running: the Vibram FiveFingers is a good example. Barefoot running goes mainstream.

Trojan Horse

Pondering over this evolution here’s what BFT says about barefoot running going mainstream:

“I still think that barefoot is best, but barefoot is free…, and I always knew that the only way barefooting was going to become a true, mainstream hit was that there was going to have to be a product…something people could buy. And the VFF is that product…, or from my perspective, Trojan Horse.

The Vibram Fivefinger is a foot glove. No support, no real cushioning. Yet, it is a thing I can buy. A solution that can be purchased. Consumer cultures feel comfortable with it. But what is its real message? It seems the real message of the VFF is that your foot is just fine AS IT IS! That regaining strength and range of motion in your foot is a worthy goal. That you are not broken by default.”

SAP is the FiveFingers of Business Process Reengineering

Implementing SAP is also like a Trojan Horse. People think it’s just a software rollout and that all other things will stay the same. … NOT! People wake up in a new world where the system allows or disallows certain things. People have access to different information. As a consequence, people will start working differently – breaking holes into silo’s and getting grips on input and output.

As a matter of fact, SAP is the FiveFingers of Business Process Reengineering (BPR). Like barefoot running, process reengineering is common sense and getting back to basics. BPR suffers the same flaw as barefoot running: it’s free.

SAP is the enabler of BPR and nowadays we see lots of organizations implementing SAP ‘because everybody does it’. Like FiveFingers it is a solution that can be purchased. And the real message is the same: your company is not broken by default. SAP is not ‘fixing’ a broken company – just like your foot is just fine the way it is. But SAP makes you run differently (i.e. on on your bare business processes) and therefore BPR becomes way more obvious.

I even like the analogy in the abbreviations: What FiveFingers is to BFR (BareFoot Running), SAP is to BPR (Business Process Reengineering)

Thanks BFT (BareFoot Ted) – for this great insight!