4 Career Lessons from Parkour

Parkour Training and Sports Business Share Key Themes

••• Overcoming obstacles is a Parkour training theme.

I recently had the opportunity to visit London, Paris, Zurich and Milan on an EF College Study experience entitled Business and Culture in Europe.  As part of that experience we visited a business in each city, and to my delight, each business visit had lessons applicable to sports business.

Our first stop was Parkour Generations in London where we heard from Dan Edwardes, Managing Director with the company.

For those not familiar with Parkour, it is a movement training approach. A complete history of how the training has evolved is available here.  And a brief explanation is offered at parkourtrain.net:

"The purpose of Parkour is about getting from one place to another in the most efficient manner possible. In theory, parkour is about learning to navigate obstacles quickly in an emergency situation. Parkour trainings allow people to negotiate obstacles on an individual basis and decide on the best method for getting passed them, based on the type of obstacle, the physical abilities of the traceur, and the situation. There is an emphasis on fluid, limber movements, and training sometimes includes instruction in the martial arts."

Mr. Edwardes talk offered a view of how Parkour started and how it has evolved and spread around the globe. He also described revenue streams at Parkour Generations including training, coaching certifications, organizational training (think police and fire workers) and others.

Our visit ended with students giving Parkour training a try (see accompanying picture).

In looking back at the visit, four themes emerged that applied to Parkour training and to successful business thinking:

You Have to Change and Evolve

In business and in Parkour training the environment is not static.

Thus, you must change and evolve.  Hearing Edwardes explain how the business of Parkour Generations has evolved - essentially without a business plan - is a reminder that while business schools emphasize business plans (and planning in general) the reality is that being adaptable and evaluating opportunities in real time is an important business skill to develop. 

You Need to Be Good at Evaluating Risk

Edwardes points out that risk can be thought of as having two dimensions: probability of failure (relative to success) and severity of the consequences of failure. While many perceive Parkour training to be "risky" because it is the high profile jumps that end up on Youtube, in reality with proper training, moves that look "dangerous" are low-risk propositions with a high rate of success and relatively low-cost consequences (think bumps and bruises) if they fail. The same rationale applies in most businesses, as risk is systematically lowered by repetition and firm knowledge.

You Need to Build a Community

When discussing Parkour training Edwardes referred numerous times to the community aspect of training locally with a group and to the importance of community in spreading the Parkour brand around the globe.

A quick YouTube search of Parkour results in numerous videos - like this one from the Washington D.C. Parkour community - which are a way of spreading the word and celebrating the accomplishments of Parkour practitioners. Are there ways you can leverage social media/YouTube in your business to foster such a sense of community?

You Can Overcome Obstacles

Business is full of obstacles - and it can be easy to give up.  But the most successful business people keep a positive attitude and figure out a way to overcome obstacles. When my students were faced with the wall obstacle pictured, many did not think they could climb it. But with some coaching - and watching how others attacked the problem - every student who tried made it over the wall. There is certainly a business lesson in that story, right?