Do you have the mindset of an Olympic athlete?

Posted on: February 18, 2014 by Jan Krans

The whole world is watching passionate athletes trying to achieve their ambitious goals. Some succeed, some fail, but they are all heroes granted with the experience of being part of the best of the best, being an Olympian. A result of dedication, focus and endurance leading to a grant opportunity: being on the spot on the right moment to get a shot for eternal fame. Being the best, get a place on the podium, being crowned with bronze, silver or gold for country, team, family and achievement.

They know competition is hard and the odds are tough, but they go and give everything they’ve got. Why? Because they believe, have trust and are well prepared. They have trained for years, day in day out, to gain maximum of strength and flexibility to master strategy, tactical and operational techniques needed, fed by a mindset of passion and purpose aiming for growth and learning. This is what an Olympian is made off.

Which leads to an article in the Olympic Coach, written by Carol Dweck Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In her research she has identified two mindsets that people can have about their talents and abilities. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are simply fixed. In this mindset athletes may become so concerned with being and looking talented that they never fulfill their potential. On the other hand people with a growth mindset think of talents and abilities as things they can develop—as potentials that come to fruition through effort, practice, and instruction.

Summarized the basic distinctions between a fixed and growth mindset are best presented by diagram made Nigel Holmes which was presented at the end of the article. - Two mindsets (Stanford Magazine) Source:

In this infographic, next to the Olympian athlete’s mindset, also the tension in an enterprise cultural transition program becomes very visible. Are you an Olympian or not?

In my current role as global change manager for the Zero email program of Atos, whereby smarter ways of communication and collaboration are being implemented, I notice a positive side effect: internal email sent is shrinking proportionally. It is interesting to see how Atos created it’s own internal Olympics with this program, which is the case within every organization which starts a major cultural change program. If an organization embarks on such a journey it needs Champions or even better Olympians with a growth mindset.

Within Atos those Olympians are called Zero Heroes, employees who have decided to stop sending internal email and use unified communication and collaboration to get the job done in a more effective and efficient way. They don’t compete with each other, although some gamification is in place.

The Atos Olympians have embraced the challenge of changing their work habits and persist in the face of setback and they continue on their path to mastery. Of course there is criticism, but there are always lessons, how to break through resistance and convert peoples thinking. In the Zero Hero community those lessons are shared whereby other Heroes get inspired to keep on going. Together they realize a higher level of achievement and change the Atos organization from the roots up. In short they are like the Dutch regarding long track speed skating. As a community they rule with the right mindset, coaching and technology.

This leaves just one question: why is this collaboration technology Atos is using called blueKiwi and not orangeKiwi? ;-)

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About Jan Krans
Director Enterprise Collaboration, Social Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing and member of the Scientific Community
Jan Krans is Group Director Enterprise Collaboration, Social Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing, a member of the Scientific Community and a Lecturer at The Hague University. Jan is specialized in new ways of working in combination with social business and he likes to surf. Not only the web, but also waves and wind, to get a clear mind and to be connected to nature’s forces. Do you want to be in contact? Just send a tweet to @Vivjan or drop a line at

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