Three winning elements of a business strategy to ensure Olympian success

By | September 13, 2012

Most of us have been swept up for the past few weeks in the Olympics and the Paralympics outstanding achievements. What a great success they have been for Team GB and the country.

For every Olympian win, there will have been a clear strategy for success developed and executed over years, leading to the eventual success in the stadium – whether gold, bronze or silver.

While the sports teams celebrate and enjoy their wins, what might businesses learn from competition in sport? There are three main areas that provide valuable insights:

  • Having the right mindset
  • Ensuring good preparation
  • Working in a team
"Image courtesy of Master isolated images /".

“Image courtesy of Master isolated images /”.

1. Have the right mindset for business success

Having the right mindset – focus, dedication, goal orientation – are all words used to describe Olympic athletes, and equally to describe our business leaders.  Going for gold can apply both to an Olympic medal or business success.

But the silver and bronze medals also have their place as the ‘me-too strategies’ of fast-followers rather than leaders in business.  Not all endeavour is crowned with success, and the Olympic athlete must deal with both success and failure – having the capability to pick yourself up after failure is a pre-requisite for great athletes and business alike.  Not all ventures succeed, no matter how dedicated and focused the approach.

olympics Ennis 2. Ensure good preparation

Years of preparation go into being an Olympic athlete, with a gruelling daily training regime.  For businesses too, detailed planning and a build-up of capabilities over time are vital.  The identification of capability gaps and the development of core competences ensure that businesses have a strong foundation from which to make a bid for strategic supremacy. At the same time high standards of operational excellence provide for the ongoing survival of the organisation.

3. Work in a team

When the Olympian crosses the finishing line, or fails to meet the final challenge, they have a strong support network –  coach, fellow team members,  home club,  friends and family and last but not least their audience.

Athletes acknowledge the motivational power of strong audience support.  Similarly for organisations, knowing that their customers and key stakeholders are supportive of their strategy (insert link to Sarah’s transformational strategy blog for bold wording) helps to drive business forward.

In Bradford’s MBA, students learn just how reliant leaders are on their teams for support in developing and implementing strategy.  Last but not least, the coach or mentor is gaining credence as an important factor in personal success for individual managers.

What do you think businesses could learn from competition in sport?

About Dr Sarah Dixon

Dr Sarah Dixon, Dean of Bradford University School of Management, completed her MBA at Kingston University, subsequently joining them where she held a variety of roles, culminating in director of postgraduate programmes for the Faculty of Business and Law. Gaining a DBA from Henley Business School in the interim, she went on to research activity at the University of Bath taking on the role of head of MSc programmes.

Her business career at Royal Dutch Shell Group included petrochemicals business management in Vienna and Moscow and later positions in strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions in London. She moved into business consulting as director of the strategy consultancy, Albany Dixon Ltd before joining the School in September 2010.

Specialties: Strategy, Organizational change, Dynamic capabilities, Organisational learning

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