Success Story in Brief

A case study of how Coca-Cola Great Britain developed the communication and collaboration skills to manage the logistical feat of a 1,000-city torch relay.

“There are lots of self-discovery and team discovery tools out there, but the Whole Brain® approach is really diff erent. It balances a simple and easy-to-understand structure with a richness and depth that really help you understand your own default mindset, and also that of the people you work with.”

James EadieOlympics Portfolio Director
About Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola Company is an American historical multinational beverage corporation and manufacturer, retailer, and marketer of nonalcoholic beverage concentrates and syrups, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2013, Coke products could be found in over 200 countries worldwide, with consumers downing more than 1.8 billion company beverage servings each day. Based on Interbrand's best global brand study of 2015, Coca-Cola was the world's third most valuable brand.

Objectives

Objective

To build high-performance teams capable of communicating and collaborating e ectively to manage the logistics of the 70-day, 8,000+ miles Olympic Torch Relay

For London 2012, Coca-Cola Great Britain set out to engage the public in the journey of the Olympic fl ame through a series of fun, innovative and exciting initiatives. The company recognized the logistical challenges involved with the Games would require a high-performing team with excellent communication and collaboration skills, along with the agility and perspectives to handle the variety of tasks, issues and challenges that could come up at any given moment.

With a goal of inspiring change, participation and legacy, Coca-Cola Great Britain realized the Olympics also presented the company with the ideal opportunity to put a framework in place for quickly getting everyone in the organization working together successfully, both during the Games and after.

Challenge

To provide the skills and tools to enable a diverse, rapidly growing team to come together in a short timeframe and flawlessly execute on a highly complex initiative. 

Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.

Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay was its own Olympian feat for organizers and sponsors. As each of the 8,000 people carrying the torch throughout the UK were accompanied by a convoy of media, staff, security and sponsors, the complexity of the task required flawless communications, dynamic agility and a gold-medal-worthy team showing.

And that was only part of the story.

As a Worldwide Partner of the London Games, Coca-Cola would also be hosting 61 free evening events up and down the country, four city celebrations, a Torch Relay finale bash with an audience of 80,000, and a wide range of sponsorship activities to bring the magic of London 2012 to every corner of the UK.

Solution

Using Whole Brain® Thinking as the foundation for Games preparation to develop self-awareness, establish a common language and build more mentally balanced groups for optimum collaboration and execution.

A little over a year before the Games began, the company initiated a “test” rollout of Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® in the UK with 12 people at the leadership level. The goal of the test was to see if this was a framework they could (1) embed, (2) sustain and (3) then apply across other functions.

From this test and the ensuing implementation, they made several key discoveries that reinforced the value of using the Whole Brain® framework as a foundation for preparing for the Games:

  • The process itself helps people become more self aware and understanding of their thinking preferences.
  • Whole Brain® Thinking would play a key role in their efforts to build what they called a “high-performance team” for the Olympics, first by giving the diverse team members from both inside and outside the organization a common language.
  • The methodology would help them build more balanced groups and teams, both intentionally and on-the-fly, so they could collaborate and execute faster and more effectively.
  • The methodology and easy-to-apply tools would quickly improve communications across the entire team.

Another key component of the preparations was scenario planning, using the Whole Brain® Communicator process. The team went through a series of hypothetical exercises of potential situations that could occur during the relay and practiced using Whole Brain® Thinking techniques and tools to communicate with each other.

They learned to “walk around” the thinking quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model to provide a complete picture of the situation in a way that would quickly translate the scenario into actions to address it: What’s the situation? Who are we communicating to? What do they need to know? What could happen next?

Results

Once the 2012 Games became part of Olympic and Paralympic history, the reflections and analyses began. The Holmes Report, a PR business and consulting report, said Coca-Cola has earned its place at the gold level of the podium: Coca-Cola, who basically wrote the book on sponsorship activation, did it again through a multi-faceted campaign that included an original “Beat TV” entertainment series and Olympic Torch Relay sponsorship.

While the Olympic teams are disbanding after the Games, the impact and ongoing application of Whole Brain® Thinking lives on at Coca-Cola. David Barker, Strategic HR Business Partner for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games project teams stated, “One of the most useful aspects is that it helps a team perform better under pressure. When the heat is on it gives you an awareness of how people, including yourself, behave.” Barker says he is actually ahead of the core business because of the work with the Olympic teams, but the Whole Brain® framework will be embedded into the core business going forward. “For those who will be redeployed, this will be so useful in their next role, either as an individual contributor or leader,” he says. “It will become the currency of the business.”

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