Engineering and the Olympics: 4 Ways to Win

Many of the fantastic aspects of the Olympic Games exist with the help of engineering. From stadiums to competition venues, water systems to transportation, engineering has applied skill and expertise to make the Games even better. In fact, the National Science Foundation and NBC examined specific engineering contributions of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games from faster bobsleds to the design of half pipes to optimal injury recovery. Engineering is everywhere!

Olympic-RingsSo while engineering has contributed to enhancing the Olympics, in what ways can the Olympics help us reach new heights? Let’s have a look.

Know your audience. Figure skating, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding winners are decided solely by judges. Training for these events includes not only speed and endurance practice, but also perfecting (and, in some cases, inventing) technical skills that impress the judges.

Who’s your audience? It might be a project team, a review board, important clients, a funding agency – or a mix of these on different days. Your audience might be in person, someone reading your work, or an individual watching your video. Unlike figure skating judges, your audience isn’t there to see what you can do – they’re most likely there to see what you can do for them. How can you improve your message to win?

  • Tell a story to illustrate your key points
  • Help your audience imagine how things can be different or better
  • Be committed and enthusiastic about your topic
  • Avoid jargon, slang, and acronyms
  • Focus on what’s important – to your audience

Emerson strives to not only know its audience but to truly understand what they require in instrumentation, both the features needed and how these devices will be used every day. With Human Centered Design, Emerson’s primary approach to product development, the goal is to recognize what the audience needs and then collaborate, test, evaluate, and improve a product until it is just right for the job.

Put risk in its place. Olympic athletes, no matter the sport, accept that risk is on the path to success. Years of training, uncertainty of outcomes, the extreme pressures of winning or losing – these are the elements faced when pursuing a dream. What can we learn from the Olympians that have paved the way? How can we prepare for the risks that we face in achieving our dreams? Just what is a gold medal mindset?

Well, it appears that winning – no matter how it’s defined – is truly within the reach of us all:

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
Wilma Rudolph, Winner of 3 Gold Medals at 1960 Rome Olympic Games

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Muhammad Ali, Winner of Gold Medal at 1960 Rome Summer Olympics

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”
Mark Spitz, Winner of 7 Gold Medals at 1972 Munich Olympic Games

“Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.”
Mary Lou Retton, Winner of Gold Medal at 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games

Anticipate what’s coming. Course modifications, changes in weather, and accidents can dictate alterations that must be made to any given Olympic event. While athletes might have trained on one type of course or under a particular event rule, they need to be prepared to change their style and attitude to succeed under some unexpected or unknown condition.

Being flexible and open to change is a prerequisite for success. While we may not have control over dynamic situations or alterations to our environment, having a flexible strategy or approach means being equipped to embrace change and use it to our advantage. Engineering is a great example of agility with its focus on solving problems, applying different approaches to get a solution, and making things work in new ways.

Emerson strives to see what’s coming in the field of process automation in order to fulfill what customers need – sometimes before they realize they need it. With Smart Wireless, Emerson captured the value of wireless technology and empowered customers to benefit from self-organizing networks to manage their processes and plants. Recently, this advancement was extended to incorporate pervasive sensing that enables production facilities to get deeper insight in all aspects of the enterprise, giving even greater visibility to operate more safely, reliably, and profitably.

Celebrate. How many times have you watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics? In the beginning, when things are bright and new, we’re there. When it’s over, we often scurry off to the next activity. True Olympians know that it’s important to celebrate the opening of the Games, but also to be there at the end to honor what has been achieved and those who helped achieve it–from the engineers to the athletes, security guards and spectators.

Whether you are leading a team, part of a group that’s achieved a goal, or you’ve relied on someone to assist you, take the time to acknowledge the challenge, the success, and the help. Not necessarily with over-the-top exuberance, often a simple ‘thank you’ is sufficient to acknowledge what’s happened and to show appreciation for the effort. It’s what the real winners do.

Posted Monday, February 10th, 2014 under Education, Emerson Exchange.

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