So the party’s over and, sadly, normal telly service has been resumed. Before our collective good mood disappears forever, let’s reflect on Team GB’s stunning performance and the lessons business leaders, as well as future athletes, could learn from it.
A few weeks before the Olympics started, I attended a conference at which Dominic Mahony was speaking. Dominic is an ex-Olympic pentathlete, who now helps both athletes and businesses improve their performance.
His fascinating talk focused on the incredible successes of Team GB since 1996. Until the ’96 Games in Atlanta, Team GB averaged 20-30 medals per Olympic Games. But in 1996 we hit an all time low – just 15 medals and 1 Gold. Since then, performance has improved steadily; 28 in Sydney (11 Gold), 30 in Athens (9 Gold), 47 in Beijing (19 Gold) and now an amazing 65 in London (29 Gold).
Whilst a large part of this success is down to the introduction of Lottery funding, it arguably has as much to with the athlete’s focus being shifted from trying to make big changes to working on the little ones.
In professional sport, very few (legal) things will significantly improve performance, so coaches and sports scientists now concentrate on “finding the one percents”. In other words, identifying the small improvements which, when added together, can make all the difference.
An analysis of the combined results of five track events in Athens found the average difference between Gold and Silver medals equated to just 0.5 seconds.
Years and years of training, nutrition management and sports science boiled down to just half a second.
Having famously said “kids from Kilburn don’t win the Tour de France”, Bradley Wiggins was the first competitor to seek permission to wear his own yellow leader’s jersey, rather than the one provided. Whether his specially designed, high-tech ‘skinsuit’ enabled him to go faster, or just feel more comfortable, we’ll never know. But this, together with the other small changes, made all the difference. And remember, the decision to ask for permission and get the suit made was all done way before he knew he’d even be the race leader.
So whoever said ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ was very clearly wrong. Focusing on the small stuff is exactly what makes the difference between being best in class and being the runner up. For businesses, this means examining every aspect of the operation to find and make those incremental changes – how the staff work, the customer experience, the product or service, how you respond on social media… It all adds up.
And just like sport, businesses often need someone to help them spot the opportunities and coach the teams through the process. If you think you could do with some help to upgrade your business from bronze or silver to gold, just get in touch.