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What we can learn from Roger Federer

What lesson do you think we can learn from Roger Federer when it comes to digital transformation? Let's look at what sets him apart from the rest. Imagine it's early morning on a remote tennis court somewhere on the globe. Dozens of tennis balls lie scattered across the court. A coach stands next to a bucket filled with dozens more as he plays them to his pupil, the next one the same as the last. The young player has good technique and footwork and approaches the incoming balls well. As he swings through the balls, most of them fly just short, long or wide of the target area the coach laid down on the court. Frustration takes a hold of the talented tennis player and he takes a moment to stare up to the sky to get some divine inspiration to hit the balls better.

The coach sets up another attempt and shouts: 'One more time, keep your eyes on the ball!'

In that often used phrase lies the answer. The moment of impact between the racket blade and the ball is crucial in giving the ball the right direction and spin and yet, many amateurs are not able to look at the ball at the deciding moment. Because they don't keep their eyes on the ball, they lack precision and power, no matter their fitness or technique. Seeing the ball all the way through is a key part of what makes the difference between a good tennis player and an outstanding player.

Tennis is a highly competitive game with only 100 men and women respectively making it to the absolute top. We can safely assume that these professionals all keep their eye on the ball. And yet, even in this elite group, there are differences among top players in how well they keep focus on the ball. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the greatest tennis players of all time who dominated the men's game over the last decade and beyond, are exceptional in their vision technique. Studies show that, compared to the rest of the field, they don’t just keep track of the ball with their eyes but they have a different way of looking at the ball, almost seeing through it. The tilt of their head and execution of their strokes differs from other pros so they can track the ball being fired at them with well over 225 km/h, see the position of their opponent at the same time and execute flawlessly to win the point. Winning dozens of Grand Slams requires this kind of focus. Point after point, game after game, set after set.

"Tennis can be a very frustrating sport. There is no way around the hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there is always something you can improve. You have to put in a lot of sacrifice and effort for sometimes little reward but you have to know that, if you put in the right effort, the reward will come."

Roger Federer

'Keep your eyes on the ball' is a phrase often used by people when discussing goals and objectives in business or otherwise. But as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show us, it is more than just the ball. It is seeing, positioning and executing at the same time and being able to do this consistently. Developing that ability to see the ball and see the entire court and your opponent at the same time has always been the most important thing to succeed in tennis.

In business, or in government, keeping your eye on the customer is just as crucial for you as it is for Roger Federer to always have the tennis ball locked in his vision, while standing on the Wimbledon center court. Lose track of the customer and his or her needs and no matter how well you execute your sales, operations and every aspect of running a business, you will see decline and your future will be at risk. This has always been true and research proves that customers that focus on their customers better than others, also do better in terms of revenue and stock market performance.

What if, with the help of technology, you could acquire the same super vision like Nadal and Federer have? Decades in the making, we are witnessing a unique moment in time where several different technologies are all coming into fruition at the same time. Combined, they can give you a better view on your customers or citizens than ever before.

I often get the question where to start when it comes to digital transformation. The usual answer is: with the customer. And before technology can give you super powers, you need to actively start listening with what you have today.

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