Collaboration On Teams and Even With Competitors Creates Winners

Watching sports on television in my youth was a program called “Wide World of Sports.”

The shows opening had this dramatic vignette of athletic feats with sportscaster Jim Mackay commenting on “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

With the latter was a video of a downhill ski racer losing his balance and tumbling down the hill head over heels and through snow fence off the side of the course.

Every four years the Olympics brings more “thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.”

It also provides lessons for life and business.

Sunday afternoon was one of those lessons.

The Olympic woman’s bicycling road race of 85 miles/136.9 kilometers ended in exciting fashion.

The “thrill of victory” for Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands who won the Gold Medal and the agony of defeat for American Mara Abbott.

Abbott took the lead when Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands crashed with a 30-second lead to that point.

From there, Abbott led the race for all of the final 15kilometers (9.3 miles) until the last 200 meters.

Abbott was cruising along with nothing between her and the finish line except the road.

She had a 45 second lead over a pack of three European racers.

With 200 meters to go, all three passed Abbott to push her off the medal stand into a fourth place finish.

The problem for Abbott was, as Jason Gay wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “In cycling, one is often a condemned number. A racer on his or her own is usually no match for a group of riders working together, who can share the effort, take hiding from the wind and gasp of breath of relief.”

Three racers from three different countries and Olympic teams, Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands collaborated to catch Abbott.

They used the collaborative force of aerodynamics to medal at the Olympics.

Leaving the individual, Abbott, to fight and struggle to hang on.

In sports we think it’s all about competition. And, it is.

But, in this instance, three competitors collaborated to put each other in a position to win.

And, in the end, they all won.

The competitor left to her own devices lost.

More on this lesson for small business teams next time.

For now, leave a comment below on what lessons about teamwork and collaboration (especially with competitors) you can take from this Olympic bicycling experience.

’til next time, Communicate with Power,

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