So, the Winter Olympics
[or, more accurately to their rebrand, the Olympic Winter Games - as if the Olympics weren't brand enough]
are currently being staged in our favourite city in the world, Vancouver. And, this being all things BadConsultant, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on what we can learn about corporate abnormality from said sporting occasion.
Right now, let us state for the record that this is not one of those pieces where we’ll try and make tenuous links between physical prowess and day-to-day work
[to us, they're as appropriate as animal metaphors]
besides, we’ve already covered a lot of that in “The Strengths Springboard – Is your organization ready?” Instead, we thought we’d share some less obvious observations and inferences. In no particular order:
It doesn’t matter how well organized you are, hydraulic systems can still screw you up. You can have the most coordinated, rigorously planned spectacle but at the end of the day, your physical mechanisms can undermine all of human ingenuity. So, while you can turn the floor into majestic orcas and, for a few moments, send a delightfully androgynous man flying through the air to the enlightening strains of Joni Mitchell, sooner or later an automatic door won’t open and your crystalline Olympic crucible will end-up a lop-sided tripod.
What do we learn? Things ain’t perfect, and the show must go on. Plan for perfection but don’t freeze when it doesn’t happen.
[and, as always, count on Wayne Gretzky to keep his cool]
People are more interested in stories than the facts. Apolo Anton Ohno heading off to Hollywood to dance with stars then returning to his sport (focus, achievement, the celebrity myth), Lindsey Jacobellis trying to win gold for the one she threw away in a moment’s adrenalized exuberance (redemption), the veterans Shen and Zhao capping a glorious career with gold (aspiration, completion, romance, olympian dream), and on, and on, and on. Very little mention of stats or specifics of performance
[oh, how much we miss the BBC at times like these]
and curiously little focus on the actors after the event – almost as if the story exists regardless of the actor. Just people, even the commentators, repeating the core stories.
What do we learn? Always focus on telling the right story; if you don’t, people will wrap their own story around you.
Who tells the story makes a difference. In the US, the Winter O… Sorry, Olympic Winter Games are being carried by NBC and affiliates only. The majority of talking head/anchor work is being carried out by the channel’s illustrious news anchors. And, as if we should be surprised, the coverage is very much more “newsy” than “sporty”
[so far, CNN hasn't claimed to be the 'best nordic-cross-ical team on television' and, mercifully, Wolf Blitzer has yet to wear lycra]
including a near predominant focus on only the US athletes
[though we don't think that's a factor of NBC]
and those in contention for the medals
[no chance of seeing the Jamaican bobsleigh team this year, except... No, they had a film made about them so there's a news angle in there...]
and very much geared to crisis reporting.
What do we learn? If you let the news media tell your story, they will present news based on crises and you will become a story of crisis. Get the right commentator up front and control your story.
Coaches watch performers. We cover this in The Strengths Springboard quite a bit, so won’t belabor it here, but while Shen and Zhao’s gold medal brought tears to our eyes, BadConsultant was struck most by their coach, Yao Bin, whose quiet absorption in his team’s performance was beautiful – his back story was as interesting as the skaters
[there you go,...story, story, story]
but it wasn’t even that… Put simply there was love, care and family in that coach’s gaze – how many of our managers look upon their own teams in such a way.
What do we learn? The best coaches love their teams – teach them to step into that love and own it responsibly.
We’ll keep a watch out for any other learnings, however will leave you with one final small thing from last night.
It doesn’t matter how meticulously you plan, organize and deliver upon a complex, multi-stranded endeavour, sooner or later you’re going to get blamed for the weather. And when you are, know that it’s because you’re doing a fine job of delivering the goods.