Philosophers, health experts, social media gurus, big data geeks, social anthropologists, HR executives, sporting legends, leadership and organisational specialists, academics and a whole galaxy of UK movers, shakers and shapers convened last week to generate insights for the future of elite sporting performance in the UK. It was a privilege to be included as a contributor and participant.
The intention of the day was to create divergent and disruptive perspectives on the future for the people leading the UK's Olympic and Paralympic performance into the coming decade.
The think tank discussed how new technologies and big data can influence elite sport in the UK, as well as advances in medicine and science. We discussed what sport means in our society and lives - now and in 2024. We also discussed the impact new leadership and organisational models might offer as learning.
It was a refreshing respite from the election and made me reflect on the difference between the government and bodies like UK sport. If only the UK Government had the same mindset about achieving 'elite performance' for our 'athletes' - people such as entrepreneurs, business leaders, and others in positions of important leadership. (Health care, education and so forth) Other organisations like TeachFirst have the same culture about elite performance - so it's heart-warming that key parts of the UK culture are run by people with great leadership skills and mindsets.
Sport is clearly important for society - but as the tension increases between shorter, faster, more extreme entertainment needs - sport needs to avoid standing too long at the crossroads between an outdated model, commercialization and the changes driven by advertisers. The conflict is as deep as any integrity challenge and shows up in the ethical conflict between the bottom line and welfare of the athletes who have a short shelf life (unlike performing artists). We acknowledged the tension between watching sport (even on a game) versus going out and actually doing it. Social media has made people cautious of 'failure', which conflicts with the historical impetus for getting into sport, such as fun, social connection and joining in. In 2025 we will all have 3D holograms of sports in our living room!
The connection between sport and the NHS was particularly interesting. We need to build participation in sport if we are to achieve NHS goals for wellbeing.
The UK has a well-developed model to achieve 'good', however motivating Millennials to become great will be hard without change. We have 46 Olympic sports but to get to 60 Gold medals, most incremental medals will come from 'outside the model' (such as new sports like Snowboarding). How refreshing to witness a UK sports think tank engaging with how to achieve that. It made me proud to be British.