The Olympics – What can we learn?

Wow what a great Olympics. I was glued to the TV whenever I could grab some time. It’s already been said by many but I will say it again “what a spectacular performance put on by the GB team”. But I will also add – “what can they teach us”?

I feel there is a lot to be learnt by us all not only in our sporting life but business too. The words that springs to mind are: “clear objectives “, “dedication” and “attention to fine detail”. Our cyclists at Beijing were possibly the first to prove that by making a series of relatively small improvements to individual elements such as the design of their bikes, clothing and helmets, levels of fitness and cycling techniques, nutrition and their psychological approach, they could achieve dramatic improvements to their overall performances. Sir David Brailsford – former performance director of British cycling has often been quoted as saying the teams success is “The Sum of Marginal Gains”. And what a haul of medals they have now amassed at not only at Beijing but London and Rio too. But let’s not forget that these developments were spread over a four to eight year cycle. Success is far from instant.

In retailing we need clear objectives too plus acknowledgement for the well-used saying “retail is detail”. Having accepted this mind-set we can then go on to seeking out small improvements in margins, stock turns, retail layouts, displays and of course customer service. This holistic approach creates synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Or in other words you make greater profits – that’s what it’s all about!

It was also great to see golf returning to the Olympics after Paris in 1900 and St Louis in 1904 – a 112 year break. It was even more exciting to follow Justin Rose’s progress, starting with a hole in one during the opening round and beating Henrik Stenson by two strokes in the final round on the Sunday to take the Gold. A just reward for his whole hearted support for golf’s return to the Olympics.

Now to be a little more controversial! The high profile given to the Olympics in general and golf in particular was a great opportunity to help reverse the slowdown in its participation. Was 72 holes of golf, similar to other major events, the best format to ignite more interest in the sport? Could other formats more effectively overcome the many hang-ups that non-golfers have and encouraging them to give it a go, which would give the sport a much needed boost?

Hockey did just that. Leandro Negre, President, of the International Hockey Federation, “Our rule changes are aimed at making hockey a more exciting sport for the audiences…”, which in turn will encourage others to try. Would a format more like the Ryder Cup have created more excitement too and, going really wild, should a mixed doubles like tennis be included?!

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