Crown MD Nicky Havelaar reflects on the Olympic legacy as this year's Games kicks off in Rio.

Life, and business, can be approached in two ways.

They can be made as complex as possible and treated as multi-faceted puzzles. Or they can be simplified.

Most organisations love to complicate things. Paradoxically, most people like clarity.

So when it comes to motivating people, one thing matters more than any other. Having a sense of purpose.

Nothing illustrates this better than the Olympic and Paralympic Games. At London 2012, 70,000 people gave up their time and devoted their energy and enthusiasm, for no reward other than being part of something they saw as worthwhile.

When people talk about the legacy of the Games, this wonderful example of unity and positivism should never be forgotten. 

Everyone involved was bound together by a clear mission. They knew why they were involved – and that they were valued.

This sense of unity was shared by the entire 750,000- strong workforce involved in putting on the Games. Everyone knew what they were there for. More importantly, they knew why. They were there to turn something good into something great. They weren’t just doing their jobs – they were part of the Games. That made all the difference.

As we watch Brazil host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the world is united in wishing for a spectacular success.

Yet early signs are discouraging in terms of the volunteer programme, with a 500-strong UK contingent still unsure whether they are wanted or not. Where the UK saw five applicants for every volunteering role, Brazil has been unable to harness such local support.

Whether their story has a happy ending or not, two things will determine the outcome: Was there enough up-front investment and consistent communication?

Investment is the key to embedding a mission, or sense of purpose. It doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be shaped, shared and constantly reinforced.
And that’s where communication comes in. The simple act of being spoken to is like water on a plant, with positive messages adding the nutrients needed to grow enthusiasm and buy-in. Just ask the volunteers who built up their hopes for Rio how their initial enthusiasm wilted over time, as silence replaced engagement.

So whatever business you operate in, motivating your people is actually governed by a very simple formula.

Create a simple sense of purpose, invest in it - and communicate it constantly.