When the Olympic flame was extinguished in Sochi, Russia, it didn’t put an end to the lessons that can be learned from the Winter Games. Athletes and coaches will examine tapes of the competition to determine what they did right and how they can improve. Television executives and advertisers will crunch numbers to evaluate the return on their investments. And, after 16 days of competition, business leaders can transform Olympic headlines into lessons that will help their organizations succeed. Here are just a few:
Expect the unexpected. From the unseasonably warm weather and Bob Costas’ eye infection, to the failure of the U.S. speed skating team to win any medals, these games reminded us that nothing goes according to plan. For that reason, back-up plans are essential. Team organizers changed start times for events, NBC brought in Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira to host the prime-time show, and speed skaters ditched their new high-tech suits in favor of an older model, all in an effort to make necessary course corrections.
Embrace new technology. Producers of the opening ceremony gambled on technology to engage the audience, and they succeeded. Hi-tech projectors, which turned the enormous arena floor into an IMAX movie screen, and elaborate sets, which rolled along tracks in the roof, dazzled an estimated 3 billion viewers worldwide. Even a malfunctioning electronic snowflake, which failed to turn into the fifth Olympic ring, couldn’t detract from the night’s memorable pageantry. In fact, producers poked fun at the glitch during the closing ceremony, proving that they have a sense of humor too.
Diversify. Olympic veterans Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, who previously competed in track and field events at the Summer Games, brought their speed to the U.S. women’s bobsledding team. They are now part of an elite group of 128 athletes who have competed in both winter and summer games. Finding a new outlet for her talent even paid off in the form of a silver medal for Williams.
Do more with less. While Russia may have won the medal count with a total of 33 medals, some might consider the Netherlands to be the real winner of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The country won a total of 24 medals with a delegation of just 41 athletes. That’s 1.7 athletes per medal compared to 7 athletes per medal for Russia and 8.2 athletes per medal for the United States.
Show appreciation for your team. When U.S. skeleton racer Michelle Pikus-Pace won a medal, she propelled herself over a guard rail and climbed high into the stands to share the moment with her family. Considered to be the “Comeback Queen” after being hit by a runaway bobsled before the Torino games and missing the medal podium by 0.1 seconds in Vancouver, Pikus-Pace said that it was important for her to share the moment with her team of supporters. Despite the fact that this an individual event, she told reporters, “We did it!”
There are many other Olympic milestones that business leaders can model for workplace success. Let us know which ones you will use to create gold medal moments for your organization.