With the (controversial) 2021 2020 Olympic games now in the rear-view mirror, I wanted to take some time to not only reflect on the spectacular athletic feats but dig into what we can all learn from the games and those who took part. While there weren’t fans in the stands and most of the events likely took place while you were asleep, there was no shortage of incredible stories and lessons that can be applied to what we do in marketing.
For those who missed it, here’s a recap of the Olympics’ most memorable moments. Once you’re caught up, check out these 5 key lessons businesses can take away from #Tokyo2020.
Lesson # 1: Always prioritize mental health
One of the biggest stories to come out this year’s Olympics was the pre-mature exit (and subsequent return) of Simone Biles. Biles, the most decorated gymnast in US history, was the favourite to take home the gold. Instead, she shocked the world by pulling out of multiple events. She later announced her decision was, “not related to a physical injury but due to not being in the best headspace to compete and needing to work on her mindfulness.” Rightfully, Biles was largely commended for prioritizing her mental health—regardless of the stakes.
Perhaps now more than ever, businesses should be doing the same. Burnout is real. Social isolation is real. Every day, people face their own mental health challenges and businesses need to be listening. With good reason, we’ve routinely written about the importance of mental health because it’s a topic that needs to stay top-of-mind. You can’t set and forget policies around psychological safety and you can’t wait until #BellLetsTalkDay to speak up. Ensuring the mental well-being of your team should be an ongoing commitment.
In addition to Wellness Days and Disconnect Fridays, we’ve recently implemented periodic anonymous ‘pulse checks’ to see how our team is faring on a day-to-day basis.
Lesson #2: Age really is just a number
Through every Olympics, I’m blown away by the age of the competitors. I’ll watch a 16-year-old do this:
Meanwhile, my 26-year-old body cracks as I lean forward to grab the remote.
From the youngest Olympian—Syrian table tennis player, Hend Zaza (12)—to the oldest—Australian equestrian, Mary Hanna (66)—the Olympics prove time and time again that age is just a number and you’re never too young or too old to take up something new.
The same applies to your career. In business, there’s a stigma around age and what someone can or can’t do. Young people don’t have enough experience, old people don’t understand technology. Why do we put these limitations on each other?
This is a mistake we highlighted in our blog, Mistakes marketers need to stop making. Leaders need to empower their teams. You’ve hired people based on a belief they can do the job. Follow through on that belief by throwing out the assumptions you have based on their age and see what they’re able to accomplish.
Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid to try new things
In a 2011 interview, Mark Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
This year, the Olympics seized the opportunity to engage new audiences and expand their offering by adding 5 new sports—baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing. As a result, we got to see a 13-year-old win a medal in skateboarding, which was pretty cool.
If there’s one thing we learned from BlackBerry’s fall from grace, it’s that businesses can’t afford to be complacent. You can’t just rest on your laurels and keep hoping things will stay the same. The best businesses continue to evolve, adapt, and move forward as the world around them changes. Want to try that new software? Try it! Want to offer a new service? Do it! You won’t know until you try.
Lesson #4: Diversity is a strength
Tokyo hosted 11,479 athletes from 206 countries who competed for 339 gold medals in 50 different disciplines. The Tokyo Games are also the “first gender-balanced Games in history“, with a record number of female competitors, while Canada’s very own Quinn became the first openly transgender person to win an Olympic medal.
Despite these improvements, the sports industry in general still has work to do. According to this 2021 Bloomberg article, “the pressure to fall in line with a deeply gendered culture alienates some LGBTQ athletes, who tend to drop out.” So while steps are being made towards a more diverse/inclusive industry, we’re not yet where we need to be. Diversity ultimately is a strength and will only make the Olympic games better.
Similarly, in the workplace, diversity is something that every business should not only strive for but educate themselves on. We wrote about diversity training and how it can benefit your team in countless ways. Bringing new and different perspectives to your business opens the door to new and innovative solutions, ideas, and more.
Lesson #5: Share in & celebrate each other successes
Finally, maybe the coolest moment of the games took place in the Men’s High Jump Final. After the remaining two competitors had both cleared a height of 2.37 meters, Mutaz Barshim (Qatar) and Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) both failed to clear the next highest level (an Olympic record) in 3 attempts apiece. Instead of moving to a sudden death ‘jump off’, the two athletes asked the official if they could share the Gold Medal—and they did. “It is amazing, man. To share it with Marco is an amazing feeling. It is a great feeling. I’m really happy.” Barshim said.
In business, we usually rely on a team. Whether it’s landing a new client, launching that big campaign, or finishing that new case study, things are rarely done by a single individual. We collaborate, and with that, credit should be shared. We should aim to spread joy and celebrate each other’s successes.
At Stryve, we use software called Lattice to give each other private and public praise when someone goes above and beyond. It’s all about recognition, encouragement, and appreciation.
Sports have often been seen as a microcosm of society and the Olympics are no different. The Olympic games aren’t flawless and neither is society. But every four years, we welcome the Olympics into our living rooms and watch the spectacle unfold and maybe even learn a few work lessons, too.