It has been a week since the World Cup ended - Germany the deserving winners and Brazil the disappointed hosts. After absorbing the actions for the last month or so, decided to put together the learning of the 2014 World Cup applicable to individuals, organizations and the corporate world.
I am sure this is not an exhaustive list – but just a starting point. Further some of these will be open to debate but perhaps that is the reason for this blog – share my observation and if it can spur a thought, great!
Quantitative Predictive analysis has its limits: Goldman Sachs (GS) and couple of other institutions had predicted a Brazil victory – GS wrote in its report that “the most striking aspect of our model is how heavily it favors Brazil to win the World Cup”. The lesson – an important one for all of us is that while having a quantitative model is useful, we need to recognize the limitations of the same and complement the same by bringing in the qualitative analysis.
Winning is about team synergy and not just Individual Excellence: While all of us, as individuals need to reach for the pinnacle of excellence, individual excellence can help win games. If the team needs to win championships, there need individuals working together and in tandem – put together in a way so as to get the best out of them and drive synergistic relationships. German team does not have a Messi or Neymar – great individual players who can influence the game out of their extraordinary talent – but what it has is a set of capable individuals who work together collaboratively and derive success from each other. Another example is England team consisting of stars but playing as if they have met for the first time. Similarly, in Corporates, success will come from getting the individual stars to work together for organizational success.
Importance of talent pool with a high element of diversity. For a team or organization to achieve long term success, it needs to have a talent pool which can align with different needs and can provide quick replacement / succession in case it is required. One driver for success is the reduction of ‘group think’ phenomenon and one way to do that is to increase diversity, especially when organization is at the global stage. Germany probably had the best bench – Mario Gotze came in the last few minutes of the game, Podolski did not play in final and semi-final – and this is the result of a long term planning program for the development of game. Germany and Holland made substitution a strategy and likewise organizations can undertake strategic talent management to align with the dynamic requirement. In terms of diversity, Germany brought in players from different backgrounds – Turkish, African, Poland – along with having a blend of experience (Klose -35 years) and youth (Schurrle – 23 years). Managing individuals from diverse backgrounds can pose a challenge but if put together well, it can create a differentiator. If you win the war for talent, the war is won.
Learnings from La Roja: I have written on this in my blog couple of weeks back. Just wanted to highlight two critical points from the Spanish team’s elimination in the first round:
One’s USP needs to evolve continuously: A corporate cannot hope to sustain its USP or uniqueness over a long time. It needs to adapt the strategy over time, else the predictability of USP will make it ineffective.
Adapt the play to the condition: Corporate needs to adapt their strategy and plan in tune with the market opportunities and the strategic capabilities.
Definition of Success and Greatness: Players play at different level – domestic or foreign league representing the club and international matches representing the country. A Mario Balotelli or a Wayne Roney might have performed for their club – performance which may get them money or fame. But greatness comes when the performance is done at the highest level – which is international playing for your country. Professionals are given opportunities to perform – regular jobs, challenging jobs and critical assignments. If one needs to make a mark, perform at those critical – make or break assignments for organizations.
Why do individuals do crazy things – how can corporates prevent it: We saw in this world cup, two great players doing quite crazy things – Suerez of Uruguay biting an opponent and Robben intentionally falling down. Can football authorities prevent such incidents? What should be process controls in place? Similar is the situation in corporates – in some cases that we know, star performers committing fraud. Can the organization prevent such instances?
The gap is narrowing: There were many a game, which was thought out to be a walkover or one sided – Brazil versus Chile, US versus Mexico and many others – but which turned out to quite balanced. If we look at the list of 16 teams that entered the elimination round, there were surprise names – Nigeria, Algeria, Costa Rica, US. This is mainly, due to players from all countries playing at the club level thereby creating some sort of equilibrium. Due to the drivers of globalization, at a corporate level, one is virtually unsure of where one’s competitor will come from. And the difference between the top companies and others is narrowing all the time, thanks to information revolution, talent migration and knowledge diffusion.
The Role of coach: Jochin Low, Van Gaal, Sabella, Klinsmann, - coaches of some of the teams who performed well; whereas Scolari, Del Bosque, Hogdson are some coaches whose team performed badly. Did coaches have a role – of course, in a team consisting of super star footballers, the coach plays an extremely important role of drawing up strategy of playing, aligning the team / getting the collaboration of all team members and ensuring proper execution of plan. Needless to say, there are lessons that leaders at all levels can learn on ways to create a winning team.
Learning from Referees: We have heard of Messi, Neymar, Klose and so on. But do you know Nicola Rizzoli, Marco Rodriquez, Nestor Pitana? These are the referees who supervised the game. They cover the maximum ground, is constantly in the game, looks out for fouls, bites (!) and anything else - unfortunately when the going is good, no one takes notice; but upon a mistake the focus is completely on them. There are also cases where a mistake by referee has influenced the result. My learnings from watching this are:
How in organization can we fool proof mistakes in those jobs where the impact of mistake is huge – drivers, pilots, doctors among others?
Can the organization suitably recognize the silent performer or those roles which does not hog the limelight?
Innovation: This edition of the World Cup was the first to be played in a social media environment – the players were twitting, friends were posting updates, the lucky ones sending snaps from stadiums. This made information so readily available and more importantly, captured views from around the globe. Secondly we found that teams which innovated on their style, Germany – who played a more offensive, dynamic and position changing style as compared to their old way of playing – emerge victorious. Very important for corporates because the future ‘play’ would be in the context of rapidly changing technology and innovation alone would be a sustainable differentiator.
These are lessons drawn seeing the game and am sharing them with the objective of igniting a discussion in your minds. Further, I am sure each one of you will draw some lessons – “as it is” or “modified” - from the above as applicable to your context. Put this all together, and one will see how this simple game can give us so many life lessons.
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