This story about cycling isn’t really about cycling. Instead, it’s full of learnings for businesses and societies alike. Which apply to you?
I grew up watching the Tour de France when there was still a romance to it. Stephen Roche winning in ’87. Lemond somehow robbing Fignon by 8 seconds in ’89. Big Mig grinding out five wins in a row from ’91.
Of course in retrospect, I don’t really know what I was watching. In the early 90s, there seemed no irony in watching Lance Armstrong win Le Tour by day, then switching over at night so Mulder & Scully could implore us to “trust no one.”
At that stage on the road, there wasn’t much for a Brit to wave a Union Flag about. But then the “The Professor” arrived and UK Cycling was suddenly A Thing. Chris Boardman’s gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics gave a nation of young lads a reason to put down their Game Boys and dig their bikes out of the shed.
Boardman may not have realised his impact in 1992, but 16 years later in Beijing, the British cycling dam burst open, with the UK winning a staggering 14 medals. It was a 250% increase from four years earlier and our nearest competitors, France, collected just six. London 2012 was no less successful. It was a coherent, organised unit all working towards the same vision.
And yet here we are, just 90 or so days from the start of the Rio Games, watching the team fall apart, it seems. Less dominant performances led to publicly aired objections and the resignation of the man in charge.
So which thread stands out the most for you and your world?
Perhaps you thought about how it takes strong leadership to build engagement. Or you considered how easy it is for people, without appropriate checks and balances, to cross the line in a competitive market. Or maybe you reflected on the potency of uniting behind a shared goal – and how easy it is to fracture that unity by failing to embrace diversity.
Whichever you went with, it proves there’s lots to learn from every story you read. Getting your story right, therefore, is a source of incredible power for you and your organisation.
RESEARCH QUESTION: Have you learned anything useful from recent events?