There is nothing quite like the Olympics when it comes to stretching the limits of human possibility. From Nadia Comăneci to Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, that saga is an ongoing one. With the Rio Olympics having concluded just about a month ago, it is time to take stock, not only in terms of what it meant in terms of athletic endeavour, but also from the perspective of the parallels that have been nudged open in other domains of human interest.
Starting a new business requires an Olympian exertion of will, intellect, and resources. The never-pausing world of startups can borrow so much from these events with the five rings as their logo, for even at times when one seems to be going around in circles, the Olympics show us that for the ready and perceptive mind, there can always be victory at the end of that quest.
Old can still be gold
The modern day Olympics were born when Baron Pierre de Coubertin recast an idea which the ancient Greeks had 3,000 years ago in a modern-day context. If anything, Coubertin astutely realised that this concept would find even more resonance in present times. History has proved Coubertin’s judgment to be spot on, much like PV Sindhu’s unerring smashes.
Innovative startups are on an eternal quest for the new. But ‘new’ is sometimes a misleading term. ‘Not presently in view’ is another way to reinterpret it, which is why borrowing ideas which failed in the past might make sense. The environment may not have been ready for the idea then, but time and consumer attitudes might have decisively shifted now. Revisiting an old idea might just prove that old can still be gold.
Take that risk to vault over the field
Dipa Karmakar shot into international prominence as well as into the hearts of an entire nation by essaying one of the most difficult and dangerous manoeuvres in gymnastics — the Produnova vault. This put her ahead of more fancied competitors, and also ensured India had an Olympic finalist for the first time. She finally was desperately unlucky to lose out on a medal. But she had entered totally uncharted waters.
Walking on the path less trodden requires courage. It also entails the executional skills to pull off the offbeat and unconventional, for it is one thing to attempt something outrageously brave, but quite another to land on one’s feet. But if that dismount is perfect, one can be sure there will be accolades in the offing — both in sport and the business world.
It ain’t over till it’s over
Sakshi Malik turned things around in the very last few minutes of her wrestling bout to win a historic bronze medal for India. The will to not give up, even as the clock ticked on and the end seemed near, stood her in good stead and ensured she grappled her way into the record books.
In fact, Yogi Berra’s iconic piece of wisdom, “It ain’t over till it’s over” advises startups on some extremely key facets of time management. Make use of every second to the fullest. Till the time is well and truly up, one can keep at it; whether it is tinkering till the very end to improve a product, or trying till the last minute to sway a valued employee from joining elsewhere. Success, in life and in the startup space, belongs to those people who simply refuse to give up.
Champions live in the present
It would have been so easy for Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to have rested on their laurels this time around. Their exploits over the past two Olympics would have been enough to cement their place among the all-time great Olympians. But champions never rest on the past.
It is important that this champion mentality is inculcated in startups right at the beginning. There is something extremely addictive and infectious about it, from never resting after an initial great first impression has been made, to pushing the customer experience from satisfaction to delight. From trying to better performance benchmarks every single day to pulling out all the stops to find an optimal solution. Being a champion involves a superlative focus on the immediate present, and treating a glorious past as merely a page which has turned over.
Embrace the changing times
The modern Olympics have stayed relevant and interesting over the last hundred years by adding little tweaks of topicality. Allowing professionals to compete, adding several new sports, and making the entire proceedings television-friendly were some of the little embellishments which have featured over the years. This time around, at Rio, a first-ever team of refugees was fielded, clearly showing the Olympics understood how the world is changing.
Startups simply have to acknowledge the ground shifts beneath them, sometimes rather quickly. Some years ago, nobody thought e-commerce would be the reality it is today. Few would have envisaged after the dotcom foldup at the turn of the century that another entrepreneurial revolution would be upon us so soon. A decade ago, the stray adverse comment of a customer could have perhaps been ignored. The world is different today. And it is constantly changing at the rate of several million megabytes per second. Startups, like the Olympics, will thrive when their processes begin to truly reflect the reality of changing times.
Eventually, these are but a few thought starters. To the discerning, several more might present themselves. The idea is to dig deeper whenever a monumental event takes place and try to eke out a personal relevance.
So whilst ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, the Olympic motto, exhorts greater performance on the sporting field, it can also easily be seen as demanding the same from white collar gamers, when it comes to the company balance sheet.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)