6 August 2012

That was week ending 3rd August 2012

A lesson from the Olympics

The Olympics just cannot be ignored this week; the greatest show on earth really is the greatest show on earth. The challenge is what to write that hasn’t been or will be written.
The event from last week that got me thinking was the expulsion of the Chinese, Indonesian and South Korean badminton players for trying to lose in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knock out stage. The Chinese and South Koreans were actually playing each other. When both teams are trying to lose just who actually did win is an interesting question.
Also last week we learnt of further eye watering provisions from RBS and HSBC for mis-selling PPI and interest rate swaps. This is on top of the fine for HSBC for money laundering. Barclays and Lloyds have already increased their provisions and many experts predict that even these will prove to be insufficient. The Libor scandal has further to run as well.
So what do banks and expelled badminton players have in common?
I suggest it is about winning. Not what you win but HOW you win.  Regrettably the culture within the banking sector transformed over time into one where it became all about the banks winning and it did not matter how that was achieved. The bonus culture reinforced this by enabling a small number of people to win disproportionately to nearly everyone else.
Winning in sport is on the face of it a clearer proposition. Most of us accept that top sports people must really want to win and this means they must beat their competitors, who by definition, lose. However what we also expect is that there will actually be a real contest, because sport, especially at top level, is massively devalued without it.
This is where the badminton players crossed the line. They abused the core value of sporting competition to enhance their own chances of winning. The spectators spotted this and quickly expressed their disapproval, soon followed by the umpire and then the Olympic authorities.
However there are no actual rules in badminton that expressly prohibit players from trying to lose. What the Olympic authorities enforced was the “spirit” of competition which is about HOW you win. I fear that just introducing more rules and regulations on our banking sector is not going to be the answer to restoring the “spirit” of fair dealing and sound business practice that we really need.

Sharp shooting

Congratulations to Peter Wilson, our gold medallist in the shooting double trap. However at one point it looked doubtful that he could even continue with his sport, never mind actually compete in the Olympics.
Following the lack of shooting medals in 2008 Games his funding from Sport England was withdrawn. With some real “out of the box” thinking Wilson approached Ahmad Mohammed Hasher Al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family of Dubai and the 2004 Olympics gold medallist in the double trap. He did not ask for nor did he receive financial support from Maktoum but he did persuade him to become his coach. With his coaching secured Wilson then managed to raise enough funding himself to get into the British team for the Olympics and then to become the first British shooting medal winner since the 2000 Games.
This was an outstanding example of “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Get really clear about what you want to achieve and that you really want it and then tackle the problems and challenges that must be overcome to make it happen. In particular be ready to think differently about what the solution might be. It would have been so easy for Peter Wilson to see his Sport England funding as the only route to a place in the Olympics and to give up when this was no longer available. There is always a way, we just have to find it.

Falling off.

Congratulations also to our men’s gymnastic team for winning a bronze medal, our first medal in this event for 100 years. At one point they were awarded silver before a protest from the Japanese team secured an extra 0.5 points for the pommel horse gymnast, which gave them the silver.
Now here is a bit of rant from me about this. I watched this part of the contest and whilst I am no expert that Japanese bloke “fell off” the pommel horse at the end of his routine, he did not “dismount”. The fact that his falling off coincided with his dismount does not change my view on this. The Japanese maintained he should be awarded some points for his dismount as he had landed on his feet. Well you would expect a top athlete to land on their feet in most situations. I have seen jockeys “dismounting” at Beechers Brook in the Grand National in a similar fashion to this Japanese gymnast.
A case of applying the letter of the rules rather than the spirit in my view. However given the avalanche of medals that British athletes have collected so far, I guess I don’t have that much to complain about.

So that was some of the week before this week. We hope you found some of the above thought provoking and useful for you and your business. We trust you had a good weekend and hope you have a great week this week.

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