Wednesday, February 19

Connective Culture, Olympic Style

On this blog and with my clients, I often discuss the power of a connective culture and how essential connectivity is to the successful operation of organizations.  Although the concept of culture is often confused with ethnic diversity, what I am referring to is the invisible web that shapes thoughts and actions within an organization.  I have found, in fact, that if you want to do one single thing to improve your organization, you should improve its culture.  And for an example of how inspiring a connective culture can be, look no further than the Olympic athletes.

It's difficult to deny how compelling the winter Olympics have been over the last several days, even if you aren't a sports enthusiast.  The stories of the athletes can be shockingly dramatic.  After years of disciplined practice and training, a speed skater catches her skate during the first few paces and falls out of her final race.  An ice dancing couple achieves their peak performance together just in time for the gold medal competition.  And did you see Bode Miller interviewed about how the loss of his brother this past year inspired him to medal?  Competition on the Olympic stage can mirror a lifetime of highs and lows in just minutes, making it easy for spectators to connect with the athletes' common human experiences.

Yet, beyond the drama, it's the magic of the Olympic spirit that compels us.  It's motivating and inspiring to observe how the connective culture of Olympic athletes can transcend even the fiercest competitions and keep the level of sportsmanship at it's highest level.  Take, for example, the Canadian ski coach who rushed over to a Russian athlete, Anton Gafarov, who had fallen and broken his ski mid-race.  The coach, Justin Wadsworth, immediately came to his aid with a replacement ski and helped the Olympian fasten it so he could finish his race. The Globe and Mail reports that Wadsworth explained during an interview, "It was about giving Gafarov some dignity so he didn't have to walk to the finish area.[ ]We help because we know everyone works so hard in our sport."  Wadsworth treated an opponent with dignity and respect by reaching out to assist him and, in doing so, elevated the morale of the other athletes and spectators while ensuring that Gafarov could finish his attempt, the other athletes could finish the race and the medals could be properly awarded. 

In this sense, the Olympic spirit as we all know and recognize it is a prime example of how a connective culture within an organization seeking a common purpose encourages it's participants, compels the highest level of integrity, and motivates peak performance.  Just imagine how a connective culture could inspire change within your own organization.  

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