I couldn’t let the Olympic Games come and go without making some really important observations and wondering how they translate to business performance. To me, this was one of the coolest games. Not just because the Queen parachuted into the stadium with agent 007, but more because of the amazing performances and stories that we got to witness, and the emotions that only sports can produce.
One of the most impressive accomplishments was the incredible success of the British team who finished with 65 medals (29 gold) - third in the medal count. Some may say they had a home court advantage but at the same time the pressure to win on home turf was enormous. Similarly, this is a relatively small country who has struggled in previous Olympic Games. How did this happen? What can we learn from the British team?
The achievements of the British team have their roots in the failures of the 1996 Atlanta Games, when Great Britain won just one gold medal. This prompted a new funding system, that was performance based, but it also prompted a different attitude towards the training and support the athletes would receive. Suddenly taking an arbitrary amateur approach to excellence was no longer acceptable. Coaches were expected to share best practices across sports, and a professional approach to high performance was required where technology and the best science were integrated.
Through our collaboration with McLaren, we got some insights into some of these new innovations. In addition to the continuous evolution of aerodynamics and space age clothing and equipment, the inclusion of bioscience emerged. UK Sport head of research and innovation, Dr Scott Drawer, said in an interview with BBC, “The technology, which enables the daily monitoring of athletes and their body’s response during extreme efforts in their performance environment, has helped to better understand individual responses to stress and then more effectively make adjustments to improve productivity and efficiency.”
Improving productivity and efficiency - this sounds like one of the biggest challenges in business.
There were many other examples of the new, more sophisticated, professional approach that the British teams used. Many of these allowed teams to make real-time changes during the events. Clearly they spent more money than in previous Olympics to focus in new ways on the performance of their teams and individual athletes. But the fascinating thing is the success of elite sport is not dependent on how much you spend relative to what you spent before. It’s about how you invest in performance relative to your competitors.
Now translate this into your organization or your team. What are you doing that is innovative to improve performance relative to your competitor? Are you ignoring the technology and bioscience that is available to improve the productivity and efficiency of your most critical teams? When you look at the business world, the level of sophistication and innovation is still quite low. Training is mostly focused on technical and tactical elements. Functional training that impacts the body and brain for better performance in meetings, negotiations, collaborations, presentations, etc. is hardly done. Most are still using an amateur approach.
Amateurs show up at the competition and hope to win. They might go to a training camp once a year. They prepare for key events without the highest sophistication. Sometimes they don’t even prepare at all. Amateurs are interested in improvement, but often without a real passion for creating an edge. They use standard (one size fits all) training plans. And when budget is tight, they eliminate training and support completely.
Professionals prepare for the competition and show up with only one intention - to win. Professionals are always creating a competitive edge. They understand that one size doesn’t fit all and although it does cost money to get the best training, it is an investment that pays huge dividends (such as Great Britain’s 65 medals). Professionals look at all angles to improve performance and provide extensive support to their teams. Professionals that are serious about winning won’t let a tight budget compromise creating a competitive edge.
The British team approached their performance in a professional way. They proved that high human performance can be engineered even under the highest pressure and the toughest funding criteria. They realized that if they kept doing things the same way they would never gain a competitive edge and win more medals. So how are you approaching your (and your critical team’s) human performance? Are you still acting like an amateur or more like a professional? And how about your competitors?
By Jogi Rippel
Founder // CEO