Olympics. What can we learn from it?

The Olympic tournament in Tokyo. What a bizarre thing. I wanted a taste of everything. Every sport and the stories of victory, failure, and revival.

Let me unpack a few of these moments over time. 

Sergio Pengel
Sergio Pengel Onboarding Specialist

Mastermind behind your performance

Recently I asked myself how learning and sport performance are intertwined. With the olympics out of the way and the paralympics about to start, I want to share some athlete stories and how they relate to learning behaviours.

Anna Kiesenhofer – the so-called amateur cyclist strikes up the gold medal during the Olympic women’s cycling event. Her story generates interest because she is without a commercial team and pulls all the strings herself, from gear choice to race plan.

A near perfect demonstration of someone that takes full control over their own learning process and performance. Anna shows a high degree of self-regulation with little to no interference from the outside world. In other words, she has the supporting capability that allows her to take more control. Mix that with a love for her sport and a will for challenge, and you have a recipe for success.

Mastermind behind your performance

When you start out something new, like painting for example. Chances are that you have a low amount of self-regulation and you need support to help improve your skill, whether that is through demonstration or encouragement. 


It is important they step away once you are able self-regulate better. Otherwise it invites friction, which is exactly one of the reasons Anna declined to join a commercial team. The challenge for you is to frequently check whether you are over- or underestimating your ability to self-regulate and if you are allowing in the support you need.

And organisations need to asses this for themselves as well. Are you really building the capability for people to stand on their own feet and develop their expertise independently?

The key to success

An important way to achieve high self-regulation is to think about what success looks like for you. Oftentimes, we let others define what success looks like and don’t engage in how that definition relates to your idea of success and how those ideas live together. 

Emma Wiggs, a paracanoeist paddling for Great Britain wrote a letter to address exactly this. In the letter, she openly talks about 'success' means for her, and it is an eye opener. She asks success is more than medals. She ends with 'Thank you Success for making me think'. So, should we do the same?

This is the first step in taking control over your learning process. For organisations, and anyone involved in the development of their employees, I suggest to frequently align your ideas about success and what level of support or agency is required in order to achieve that.

The key to success

Of course the Olympics has taught us a fair bit. It's through falling that we rise again. Now it is our turn to use those learnings. Would you like to brainstorm a learning solution? I would like to help you. Contact us. 

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