The Olympics, Your Innovation and 3 Medal Worthy Observations
Are you the type that just can’t get enough of the Olympics? You don’t know why you care about a women’s 2-on-2 Volleyball match being played near the Prime Meridian, yet there you are explaining to your five year old why that was a “nice dig”, and why a certain team is the one to cheer-on!? Perhaps you are. Even if this doesn’t describe you, there are still several valuable lessons to take away from these Olympic games. And like any good student of the Olympiad, we’ve of course broken them down into 3 “medal” worthy categories. Step-up onto the podium, listen for the anthem of innovation, and enjoy these three comparisons between your innovation efforts and the 40th Olympiad known as the London games.
The Bronze Medal Goes to: Quantified Self Technology
Are you aware of the quantified self presence at these Olympic games? Do you know what the Quantified Self even is? We have shared this video in a previous post, but there is a good chance many of you are still unaware of what this movement represents. We encourage you to watch the following video from the TopCoder Innovation Series and to subscribe to the channel on YouTube.
Currently at these Olympic games there are athletes from around the globe utilizing quantified self devices, applications and data helping them best prepare for their moment to compete against the world’s best. This is a level of competition where 1/100th of a second can determine success, so it becomes the perfect breeding ground for deeper experimentation with specified data-driven training regimens. With even just a quick glimpse at some of the devices and services being leveraged by many of the world’s top athletes, we realize they include:
Zeo – Top athletes are tracking their sleep optimization while closely monitoring the various factors that lead to a best night’s rest
InsideTracker – Covered in a recent TopCoder Blog post, InsideTracker is helping Olympians monitor their key internal biomarkers (via bloodwork) and helping them stay optimized throughout the events
miCoach from Adidas – a small sensor embedded in Adidas footwear is tracking performance, speed, and other factors trainers and coaches are now monitoring to help their athletes perform at their peak
- Under Armour – Athletes are donning the ArmourBite mouthpiece designed by Under Armour. Meant for non-contact sports, this nifty piece of performance-design helps athletes reduce stress by preventing the athletes from clenching their jaws and this prevents the release of a fatigue-causing hormone known as cortisol
It’s been famously stated that the future is already here, but it’s just not evenly distributed yet and this is surely the case for the quantified self movement. As an enterprise, it is worthy for you to understand what this movement of individual measurement will mean for your business. It is perhaps further reaching than you potentially envision and it goes well beyond the scope of wellness and health. By the next Olympic games, it is very possible the majority of mobile phone users will be utilizing some application that harnesses quantified self metrics.
The Silver Medal Goes to: Hyperspecialization and the Valued Generalist
Is there another such gathering in all of humanity where individuals with amazingly hyper-specific skill can rise to such levels of recognition? Games that were born from war, like the ability to throw a spear farther than any other human being on the planet, allow athletes with amazingly specific skills the opportunity to dedicate a good portion of their early lives to mastering this incredibly specialized task. But the Olympics also embrace the generalist in such sports as gymnastics and of course the Decathlon where the athlete is required to be a top level performer across varied sports. It is a fantastic balance of witnessing specialists perform like no other in the world, and moments later understand the role generalists must fill in order to succeed. Both require mastery of a different kind and in your innovation efforts, you too will require both the hyperspecialist and the valued generalist to continuously breed value for your enterprise. Of course, how you choose to access these specialized individuals is where a community such as TopCoder can help you succeed.
Would the Olympics be anything without the notion of winning? Would they exist, would they captivate you if you still saw the same athletes, performing the very same way, but the entire exercise wasn’t a purposeful competition? Our guess is no, in fact the athletes themselves most likely wouldn’t rise to these grueling challenges and put their bodies through the physical and mental regimens necessary to become a champion if in fact at the end of a performance, there was no decided winner.
Competition is at our core, and I don’t just mean TopCoder, but rather in a much broader human sense. We understand what competition does for us as individuals. Does it make sense to apply this same mentality to the way you approach innovation and productivity in the 21st Century? Competition is why we ultimately care. It drives us as the individuals who are performing, it pulls us in as a viewer, and it helps us to care passionately about a set of games that happen only once every four years. For that reason, we reward the gold medal of innovation to this omnipresent factor and encourage you to think about how this very same phenomenon can help your enterprise innovate and produce more effectively. Competition is a powerful and beautiful thing.
Let your innovation games begin.
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image credit: baragaineering.com, bitetech.com, bleacherreport.com