What the Olympics can teach us

Watching the thousands of people line the streets to welcome the Olympic torch through the streets of Britain is not only great news to those of us who support the Games, but it tells us something about community and the inherent human desire to ‘be part of something’.   It also shows why we should be careful about over-reacting to criticism.   You’d have thought from reading some papers and listening to radio phone-ins over the last year that most of the population is against the idea of the London Olympics, such is the prominence given to criticisms about ticketing, cost, London-bias and alleged corruption.   But the streets don’t lie.   Seeing the excitement build on the torch relay is a great, uplifting example of what happens when communities engage with an idea.  It’s momentum.   OK, it’s very well orchestrated and certainly over-marketed momentum, but there’s something also quite basic about the fervour that’s building across the UK.   When interviewed, you hear people say “well it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity”.   What is?  Seeing a bloke in a tracksuit walk up a road with a torch?  It’s not even the same torch (each runner has their own torch with ten minutes flame time).    Of course not, people turn out to FEEL part of it.   It’s symbolic.   It’s what it represents.   It’s an opportunity to engage with something big, patriotic, influential and inclusive (we can’t all have tickets but we can all connect with the Olympics through the torch relay).   And what does this desire to be part of something tell us about people’s motivation at work?   To me, it’s a reminder that we should keep looking outside of our industry to see how people react to events and messages, and to see what we can bring back into our own world.   There are lessons out there in all walks of life.