How can the Olympics inspire us in business?

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What has The Olympics meant to you?

 Welcome sign to the 2012 Olympics

  The whole spectacle seems to have had a far huger impact than expected on Britain as a whole and those naysayers who took great delight in complaining at the expense, the delays, the disruption, the use of our lottery money and everything else they could think of seem to have been silenced by the simple huge success of the project. And what a project …. How many years was that in the making? From the planning around putting together a bid to the closing chord of the Closing Ceremony – over a decade. Wow!!

The tagline for London 2012 has been ‘Inspire a Generation’ but as Nigel Botterill tweeted, maybe ‘Inspire a Nation’ would have been more appropriate because it has, hasn’t it? Along with the Jubilee the events have made us feel so proud to be British, and to somehow have played a part in the greatest show on earth.

But the inspiration, I believe, doesn’t just stop at sport. There are huge lessons we can take from all aspects of the Games to apply in daily life and especially in business. Which will stick most in your mind?

Examples for me include:

1. Keeping to target

Keeping such a huge project targeted, focussed and adapting to change over the course of more than a decade required some pretty committed monitoring and tough steering. One part we won’t have seen in all but has undoubtedly been there, is contingency planning. The organisers will have thought long and hard about the ‘what ifs’ to ensure they had all eventualities covered. We’ve not noticed it as they’ve covered it that well.

How focussed are we on our business projects? What ‘what ifs’ have we got covered?

 

2. Over-delivery

Who really expected The Olympics to be as amazing as they have been? The Opening Ceremony set the tone and from then on, the execution and delivery has been of the ‘excellent’ category, not the ‘satisfactory’, consistently. That requires consistent quality checking, attention to detail and very, very thorough thinking and planning.

 

How do we plan to over-deliver to our clients?

 

 

Illuminated London Olympics

3. Use of social media

This has undoubtedly added to the buzz surrounding the whole event and has allowed those who don’t have access to TV or radio coverage keep up to date with what’s going on. I believe it has also hugely encouraged interest from teenagers who might otherwise have  given it the ‘whatever’ treatment! In addition to this ‘broadcast’ approach, has been the human side, as tweets by athletes have drawn the public in and made them feel much more personally involved. This has been accelerated by the tweets being read out as part of the TV coverage, so intertwining the media available. What touched me most were the tweets from one athlete to another – again just demonstrating how they are real people too and again, making us feel comfortable with being involved. We think – ‘Yes. This is relevant to me. I don’t have to be a huge sports fan myself – I can understand where these guys are coming from …. ‘

How do we use social media to make people feel at home and involved with our businesses?

 

4. Timing is everything

Nothing could be a second out, in that huge spectacle, could it? Everything had to happen at the allotted time and in the allotted space, or the whole thing could have  come tumbling down like a pack of cards; and that’s not just the physical organisation. Think of the huge numbers of tickets that winged their way out through the post, or the stock for the online and physical shops reaching its destination. The traffic martials, the sand-sweepers, the train drivers …. The list goes on!

And online too – the website has the eyes of the world on it – so has had to be completely up-to-the-minute. And the social media team – they have to get those tweets and posts out within a fraction of a second of the race or event ending. (I was lucky enough to meet a member of TeamGB on the train on the way home one day who gave me some insight into this tremendous team) Imagine the amount of back-up technology they must have in place? The alternative tweets, posts and photos they have had ready for whatever the outcome might have been…  That operation has been seamless.

 

How do we ensure impeccable delivery when it matters the most?

 

Olympic Stadium and Orbit Tower, London

5. Attention to detail

As alluded to above and goes without saying. But without it, how could The Games have functioned? This has wound its way through every aspect of the Games, from the impeccable organisation, to the gymnasts getting each finger and toe in exactly the right place, to the TeamGB staff going around the crowds sat out in the Park offering suncream to those who were caught out by the weather changing.

How do we keep our eye on the detail, constantly,  to ensure we over-deliver?

 

6. Absolute focus on the goal

We have heard so many stories over the past few weeks of athletes who have overcome huge personal adversity to get to their elevated status in their sport. And we have heard still more stories about training regimes, motivation, and inspiration. And the one message we hear, undiluted, is that to get to Olympic gold-medal-winning standard, you have to be completely committed to achieving your goal. And that means committed in every part of life, including lifestyle, diet, friends, career, location … everything – not just the training regimen and diet. Totally determined, not swayed off course. The champion athletes know know that if you keep doing the same things in the same way,  you’ll get the same results you always had.

The second part of this lesson has been that it’s not always about making huge changes, but it’s consistently making the small changes that matter, that add up to make a very big difference – the difference between being an Olympic Champion and not.

What small changes should we consistently be making in order to reach our goals? How determined are we to get there?

 

7. Spirit

From the expectant crowd, to the buzz around the broadcasters and satellite events such as the BT Live events in Hyde Park, there has been a huge surge in positivity, in elation, in energy, in enthusiasm, in encouragement and also in confidence – in people believing that, despite difficult times, the UK is a great place.

How can we capture that and bottle it for releasing around our businesses? How can we recreate those same emotions? Because boy, are they strong ones! People are clamouring to buy Paralympics tickets on the back of them – how can we get people clamouring for our product or service?

 

I am so proud to be British and to be part of this great nation. I hope this post reflects that and also provides an anchor, a checklist of the huge array of takeaways from London 2012 and this whole unforgettable experience. What lessons will you be taking away from it all?

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  1. Reply

    From a comment that I posted in Nigel Botterills Entrepreneurs Circle group on LinkedIn I would add “be enthusiastic about what you do” – it will take you to new places – help you overcome the issues, rise to the challenges – the athletes/participants in every event that I watched – (and I did watch loads!) – live at Excel and on the TV were enthusiastic about doing their best, giving their 110%, supporting others in the team – the coaches, the support teams, the Games Makers, the armed forces were all enthusiastic and this showed in great performances. A great performance doesn’t have to be a world record or “medalling” – just something that can make a positive difference to someone. 2 quotes sum it up really well
    “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment” – Norman Vincent Peale
    “Enthusiasm is contagious. It’s difficult to remain neutral or indifferent in the presence of a positive thinker.”- Denis Waitley

  2. Reply

    Value and Utilise Support, and Take Responsibility.
    Well, thanks for all your posts from the Olympics. The whole event has been a great inspiration. One thing which many of the medal winners mentioned in the post event interviews was the importance support in determining their outcomes. Starting with coaches (sporting, nutritional, mind), mentors, technical teams, nutritional family and finishing on the day with the crowds urging them on. The business analogy fits exactly with this with all those elements contributing and I guess the one which I suspect many businesses really need to tap in to and perhaps make more of is coaching/mentoring and getting their mindset right – believe you can, and take responsibility as Nige Botterill would say.

      • Julia
      • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks Peter – yes support was definitely a huge contributory factor in all the athletes’ success. AS you rightly say we can find this in coaches and mentors and also the huge peer-to-peer support that is afforded by the members of Nigel Botterill’s Entrepreneur’s Circle, which backs up the huge amount of learning and Botty nuggets!.In addition the teamwork played a huge part in the success of the whole amazing event. Again, this can be reflected by the networks we choose to build around ourselves…. Roll on the Paralympics!!

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