Tour de France 2016 log

Innovation in Cycling Series – Part Four

The 2016 Tour de France provided a perfect illustration of the importance of innovation. With the race over for another year, let’s reflect on how innovation helped the winners, and how, in business, we can learn more from these winners.

If you follow cycling, or if you read (‘Parts One to Three of this series’) then you will know that we’ve been taking a closer look at the innovation within the Tour, and seeking to understand what we can learn from it in the business world.

Tour de France 2016 - mid banner

So, who won?

For the fourth time in five years, the Tour de France winner came from Team Sky Pro Cycling. Chris Froome won his third Yellow Jersey, and is now in a very select group of riders with 3 TdF wins under their belt. Peter Sagan won the Green Jersey (the sprinter’s title) and he was also crowned the most combative rider in the race. If there were prizes for best haircut, most lunatic descending, and for popping a wheelie over the finish line of a mountain stage, he’d have won these too.

Why did Chris Froome win?

The simple answer: he completed the 3,519 km course in the fastest time. So perhaps the question “How did he win?” will give us greater insight.

So, How did he win?

The innovation and dedication of those involved within Team Sky have been instrumental in this success – the central point of this blog series. Some of these include:

  • Build a team where everyone is clear on their role
  • World-leading diet and nutrition for the riders
  • Training regimes based around peak performance at key race times
  • Physical and psychological fitness programmes for riders
  • World class equipment (bikes, apparel, support vehicles)
  • Holistic approach to training (e.g. including media management for the riders)
  • Treat the riders with respect; trust their judgment
  • Sweat the detail: prepare more carefully than the competition
  • Prepare to surprise the competition with unexpected tactics

In Chris Froome’s winner’s speech, he rightly acknowledged the contribution of the Sky team in his success. In addition to his 8 fellow riders, he also credited his coach Tim Kerrison and team manager Dave Brailsford. Each is renowned for being innovators within their field. Kerrison is a world expert in sports nutrition, recovery and training. He has introduced many innovations widely ridiculed at the time – and now adopted by all the other teams (e.g. warm-downs after racing, high altitude training camps). Brailsford has similarly incurred the wrath and incredulity of the cycling establishment by daring to be different. That’s simply part of the price to be paid for daring to be different – and they don’t care, because they have the results to prove their approach works.

What can we learn from this?

In many walks of life, there are risks and rewards in trying new things. And time and again, we see that those having the courage to try new things are ultimately rewarded – if they have the right dedication and attitude. We see this in Mitra Innovation all the time – where many product innovators have come to us to help them realise their vision. We regard this as a privilege: we love helping them succeed, and we take great delight in the energy and enthusiasm they bring to their challenges.

What next for the TdF winners?

If you listen to the interviews of the TdF winners, you hear two recurring themes: the up-coming Olympics in Rio and the 2017 edition of the Tour de France. Although still clad in lycra following their epic race around France (and a little bit of Switzerland), they were already looking to the future.

…and what can we learn from this?

This is perhaps one of the greatest insights into the winners’ mindset – they are always focused on their next challenge. They do look back on their performance, but only to ensure they extract maximum learning in order to improve their chances of winning in future. A relentless refusal to accept the status quo as the best that can be done.

And here we see direct parallels with our world of technology innovation. Within Mitra Innovation, we run the Agile Delivery Methodology. This includes a retrospective after each sprint, where we always ask the same 4 questions:

  • What went well?
  • What have we learned?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What could we have done better

This enables us to keep doing what we’re good at – and improve the other bits. A relentless determination to improve. Try it – it works!

Derek Bell

Derek Bell | COO & Co-Founder
Mitra Innovation