Recently I came across a fascinating story where sports scientists and designers worked alongside young Olympians to explore how tiny changes could make a difference to performance outcomes. What I learnt translates well into the competitive world of business and hopefully rids us of that annoying “there’s no ‘I’ in team” cliché.
The purpose of the collaboration was to see whether even the minutest tweaks to training regimes, equipment and clothing could influence race times and the all-important medal-count.
It undeniably looks intimidating when a team of rowers sit in their craft, dressed precisely the same, using the same oars and perched on identical little fibreglass seats.
An impressive team? Definitely. Winners? Maybe.
While Olympic regulations demand a high degree of uniformity, the designers realised was there was some leeway when it came to precise manufacture of each oar, and indeed each seat.
By studying the movement of the individual athlete and observing their natural posture, the designers manufactured bespoke equipment.
The impact for each rower was miniscule, but the outcome for the team had the ability to change bronze to gold.
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Next they looked at training regimes and diet. Historically teams do much the same training at the same times and pretty well consume the same food and supplements.
The scientists did away with all that and gave each person far greater input into what felt right. Some trained later in the day, some earlier. A few ate less, some more. And yes, you can guess the result.
As business owners – whether flying solo or as part of a small team – we do ourselves no favours if we diminish the role of the individual by doing what’s expected or what everyone else is doing.
We are agile enough to design our own ideal working conditions and business, and the reward is gold.
What little change have you made recently that has noticeably impacted an outcome? Tell all and you can run round the stadium while we all applaud.