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OPINION8 August 2012

Do we need an Olympic ideal for business?

Can and should the Olympics have the power to inspire us in our business lives and – if so – are we harnessing it to best effect?

Tell the truth. You must have taken a step away from your work for a few minutes at some point over the past week to cheer on Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis or – perhaps just as importantly – any of the athletes who may have missed out on medals but achieved personal bests.

But can and should these Olympic feats inspire us in our business lives and – if so – are we harnessing it to best effect?

It’s clearly worked for one of my colleagues at Engage Research, who admitted having Wiggins in mind as she pushed herself to cycle to work faster, knocking a couple of minutes off of her usual commuting time.

This got me thinking about the lessons we can learn from Olympians to help us do our jobs better.

  • Leave no stone unturned in your preparation. Research is critical to the way brands and businesses function. As the saying goes: if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Securing the customer insights your brand or business needs will be central to your chances of success.
  • Take a risk. Great athletes, like the most successful businesses, take calculated risks. They know the importance of spotting their chance when it presents itself and going for it.
  • Relentless self-belief and enthusiasm. Top athletes won’t allow themselves to be battered by negativity. So if we don’t believe in our brands, nobody else will either.
  • A desire to stand out from the crowd. Nothing will undermine your brand more than becoming ‘wallpaper’. Creating a distinctive identity with which your market can relate is crucial.
  • Agility. There is ample evidence of successful brands recognising early that something isn’t working and then changing their strategy accordingly.
  • Being part of a team. You only need to watch a successful relay or rowing team to see the importance of assembling the right team and then playing to the strengths of each of the members.
  • Get used to disappointment. Whether you’re an athlete or a brand, get used to the ups and downs and learn how to ride both to stay ahead of the competition.