There is nothing in the world like the Volvo Ocean Race — seven boats compete for nine months racing across the entire planet of water. Two million fans watch. It happens every three years because of the intensity of this global event. While most people are focused on the sailors, there is a different type of person who makes this happen — the technical athletes. Just like the recent hit movie Hidden Figures featured three African-American female mathematicians who were the behind the scenes heroes in NASA’s space race, the backbone of the Volvo Ocean Race is getting everything technical perfect.
Yesterday I was in Newport Rhode Island, one of the Volvo Ocean Race stops and was fortunate to spend some time with Samuel Piñeiro Technical Director of the entire Volvo Ocean Race. I asked Sam about the behind the curtains that enables this to happen. He explained, “There are three pillars. First is local stops around the world where we want to make the technology seamless; second is TV where we must have real time digital footage for the world to watch. But the most important is really the third piece which is tracking the boats at all times through satellite. It’s all about safety. We have the tracking down to every 10 seconds.”
Now the of course there are other behind the scenes heroes such as HCL Technologies who is the official technology partner handling everything (as background HCL also runs another of the world’s biggest fan experiences which is all the technology for the Manchester United soccer team and it’s 650 million followers). So there is clearly a significant technology team at many capacities making this happen.
As I think about the technology I am thinking about CEOs. To me there is an interesting analogy here. Just like tracking is the most important element to something as complex as the positions of fast moving boats real time, so to the key to success of a great CEO is also tracking. I have learned through interviewing over 750 of the top CEOs that a CEO’s job can be boiled down to just six words, “To get from here to there.” This means a CEO must understand at all time where they want to go, and equally important, exactly what the current reality is. And as current reality is constantly changing, so is the dynamic of how close one is getting to their vision. Great CEOs must track the culture dynamics of the employee base, how engaged their customers and the social media community is and what technologies are enabling new opportunities.
So my question to CEOs is, what is most important for you to track today and what technologies can you use to enable real time tracking?