As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July 3rd, 2018
Football is a game that some like. Others do not really care about what goes on in the world of football. I may not know much about Kenyan football and I know very little about the European league. However, something excites me about the FIFA world cup. I like the world cup because it brings all of us together. A world united is a beautiful thing. I also like the buzz characteristic of sporting events and above all, I enjoy watching a good game. As I have watched this year’s matches, I have been reflecting on the many business lessons we can learn from the world cup.
I did not closely follow the world cup-qualifying matches and was surprised to learn that team Italy did not make it this year. It was also a major surprise for Germany the 2014 winner and favourite for many to finish last in their group. As a reflected on this, I wondered what lesson we could learn. Lesson number one, a business’s history is not a guarantee for consistently winning in the marketplace. The marketplace is evolving and it is becoming very competitive. To survive, businesses must select strategies and tactics that help them stay ahead. In addition, businesses must not rely on past successes as a surety for survival. Businesses must be ready and willing to change tact.
Lesson number two, both individual and team performance are crucial. Most of the players in the world cup are top in their clubs. They spend adequate time training and playing within their clubs but not as much time with those in their national teams. In the world of business just like in football, while it is important to have the best team members, the team must work well together. In business, performance is considered as a product of ability and motivation and I believe the same applies in football. To perform exceptionally well, both individuals and the team collectively must work well together. Argentina’s comeback surprised many; it was evident that the team went all out against Nigeria. It was not enough for them to rely on just one top scorer. In business, when we have individuals that have special abilities, we gain a competitive advantage. However, to win in the marketplace, individuals with special abilities need to be part of a great team.
I find every match so different. Some matches are boring others are very enjoyable. I like to watch a good match. I describe a good match as one where the teams are playing to win, there are minimal fouls and the referee is fair. I draw my lesson number three from this analogy. Smart businesses just like the best football teams need to play to win. I believe that trying not to lose in business does not match the will power to score a goal. The marketplace has many opportunities that we need to embrace. When we only make moves that we are certain about, we miss these opportunities. If a business is always in defence mode, it remains unattractive.
World cup is unquestionably the world’s largest sporting event. As we enjoy the matches to the end, let us reflect on the many lessons that we can learn. These are just but a few of these lessons. May the best team win!!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy