What is your companies’ Olympic event?

Like an Olympic athlete, companies need to choose a narrow event target that matches their physiology, then train rigorously to configure their brains and muscles to excel in their chosen discipline.

Watching the Olympic athletes, I am awe-struck by the focus, discipline and passion it takes to become best in the world. Every athlete has amazing skills and physique, and they differ greatly from sport to sport. The physique and mentality of a swimmer is different to a diver, to a weightlifter, to a sprinter, to a table tennis champion. Most athletes not only specialise in a discipline, but in a specific event which they practice obsessively.

This specialisation is driven by the trade-offs that weaken performance with every additional event an athlete takes on. These trade-offs may be physical (you may build the wrong type of muscle) or mental (the pathways you need to burn get fewer repetitions). At world-class levels, these trade-offs can make the difference between Gold and 4th place. The fact that there are so few Michael Phelps shows how quickly these trade-offs impact performance.

There is a strong analogy with business. To become world class requires choosing an appropriate product/customer target for your DNA and then focusing the entire organisation to deliver it. Trade-offs creep in every time you broaden the product/customer target.

Few markets are as global or as ruthlessly performance-based as the Olympic Games, permitting companies to survive even with some trade-offs embedded in their strategy.

However, globalisation and the internet are driving more and more markets towards the Olympic model. More sharply focused strategies will be required for all.


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