MIT is better known as a prestigious hub of technology and entrepreneurship than a meeting place for sports. Its Sloan School of Business has turned out many great business innovators and leaders, but few professional athletes.
Over a weekend at the start of March more than 100 speakers and 2,000 audience attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to discuss the business of sport and how innovation and creativity can take it to the next level. One part of the conference that caught my interest is the ‘Evolution of Sport’, where presenters have 20 minutes to present an idea that could change how sport is played in the future. The Best Talk award went to Stanford University Biomechanical Engineering student Muthu Alagappan for “Redefining the positions in basketball”. Other topics included Mixed Martial Arts, concussions, the force of slam dunks, automated journalism, the America’s Cup and NASCAR driver development. These presentations are original, thought-provoking, innovative, and make us see athletic capability in a whole new light. Other conference presentations topics ranged from training the athletic brain, to the effects of fan passion (fanalytics) and the power of belief.
Innovation in sport can do a lot to change the way a game is played, but fundamentally it still boils down to commitment and passion. Great athletes have the tenacity to push themselves to the limits in pursuit of being the best they can be, but it takes creativity and the courage to try new ways to get to the finish line.