Simplicity and peak performance

Aug 17 2012 by Malcolm Parker Print This Article

Aside the medal winning and the media hype, the success of the London Games has shown how the power of good, simple ideas, if well followed through, can create ultimate performance. For those who were not able to make it, let's take a few examples which concerned visitors who were lucky enough either just to visit the Olympic Park or to attend an event.

Firstly, anyone arriving at a London airport or a main line railway station will have noticed a large number of the highly acclaimed Games Makers (GMs), those volunteers who were there to provide information and assist anyone travelling towards a venue. They were almost always able to answer a visitor's questions and there were so many of them that if one GM couldn't help, another would.

This immediately gave a positive image of the Games themselves, the transport provider and, of course, London itself. The simple idea which worked was having sufficient numbers of agreeable, informed and motivated staff who would immediately put the visitor in a positive frame of mind.

Secondly, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games put its best foot forward, especially for foreign visitors, by sending a London Travelcard with tickets for use on public transport on the day of the attendee's event Ė a 'sustainable' form of positive reinforcement?

Thirdly, all the venues were very well signposted and the visitors were channeled, kept informed and welcomed from the station platform to the venue entrance by large numbers of GMs. The colour scheme of the signage was standardized and easy to differentiate from normal signposting. The simple idea here was consistency.

At a different level, security was a huge concern and after the initial G4S security fiasco the Army were brought in to complement the police. The presence of hundreds of soldiers was either contentious or reassuring depending on your point of view but they were deployed to ensure that on entering a venue each visitor was searched and their belongings x-rayed the way they are at an airport.

But in spite of the numbers of visitors, access to the events was fast. The simple idea here was to use a proven system in an unusual context. This required choosing trained personnel, putting them in their best positions and providing them with appropriate technology.

In terms of sporting performance, athletes, when interviewed by the BBC, mentioned some very basic ideas such as hard work, graft, total commitment and technique; coaches mentioned identifying and nurturing talent with long-term institutional support and financial commitment, in short, providing effective means.

In line with this, one of the most impressive performances came from the British cycling team - just as it did in Beijing in 2008; the basic idea there is "The aggregation of marginal gains" which really means paying attention to and improving all those small details.

Inventing the oval crank may have helped some cyclists in recent years in their racing, but at the end of the day, nobody needs to re-invent the wheel to perform to the highest standards. All we need some good, simple ideas.


About The Author

Malcolm Parker
Malcolm Parker

Malcolm Parker is an Associate Professor of HR Management at SKEMA Sophia-Antipolis in France and Head of Business-Bachelor programmes at the School.