Use Management Innovation to Close the Collaboration Mindset Gap

What soccer can teach us about collaboration


By now, you’ve probably seen several of my posts talking about soccer’s connection and application to global business. For example, I’ve challenged people and organizations to view soccer as a viable platform to help build a collaborative mindset. It’s been a tough challenge to sell soccer in a culture (or market) that promotes individual performance over team performance. Yet many people and organizations continue to struggle with team collaboration.

Why is it hard to sell soccer’s model? For some, the use of another sports metaphor may not resonate. For others, they may carry a bias against soccer because it’s not American. Perhaps others claim they don’t understand the nuances of a sport that only scores a few goals in a game and is less exciting. Some just don’t understand how the game is played – and have never taken the time to learn. I can go on, but you get the point. What needs to change to successfully sell soccer as a viable platform when it comes to collaboration and team development?

Based on a recent Forbes report, soccer in North America is now viewed as the sport of choice for millennials. That’s both interesting and encouraging – only because this may be the first generation to place a higher value on team performance versus individual performance. They’re also a generation more comfortable with collaboration – and they’ve grown up with technology to help facilitate collaboration.

In my earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that “individual values may be the enemy of team values” just as “good is the enemy of great.” After thinking more about how millennials view soccer, we may have to wait for future generations to roll-out before soccer is embraced as a viable platform for collaboration. Unfortunately, the global business world can’t wait for that to happen. Today, most CEO’s view collaboration as the key to innovation and future business growth!

The mindset gap for practicing genuine team collaboration is real and needs to be closed. If we believe what management thinker Gary Hamel suggests as an answer, we need to recognize the importance of management innovation for closing the gap. Only then will we achieve new performance thresholds from our efforts to practice genuine team collaboration in the workplace.

Taking this step requires embracing new, novel principles like soccer’s operating principles to tackle a big management problem, described as: “we don’t know how to collaborate to produce win-win outcomes in a culture that promotes individual performance over team performance!” Soccer’s principles mirror the team’s actions on the field. Played at the highest level across the globe, soccer is a fitting example of a sport with teams whose success is directly related to their ability to apply a collaborative mindset (i.e., operating principles) recognizing the interdependent relationship for harnessing the power of connection points across the team’s network to produce winning outcomes.

These principles may not be a marked departure from what some describe as traditional principles. But when combined and connected to a series of competencies focused on collaboration, a new methodology or process for practicing genuine team collaboration can be applied for closing the gap and fixing the problem.

In selling, I was told that the key is to appeal to peoples’ emotions versus their logic. If true, it may be hard to appeal to your emotions unless of course, you’re a die-hard soccer fan! That leaves logic. Logic may work if you’re passionate about your business. If so, does the idea of marrying your passion for your business with my passion for collaboration – using soccer’s platform – sound appealing? If yes, let’s talk. If not, perhaps you’ve got time to wait for the next big thing to come along that may or may not help your business succeed and grow!

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