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It’s All in the Game


Wed Feb 17 2016

It’s All in the Game

Today’s highly competitive and collaborative global business world has become more and more like soccer. The game provides the best example of what the interdependent nature of the team experience looks like. The best teams in the world, both on and off the field, succeed by practicing genuine collaborative teamwork. 

Collaborate to Innovate Using Soccer’s Model 

Innovation continues to be central to business growth, with collaboration and technology acting as key enablers. According to the Center of Creative Leadership’s Future Trends in Leadership Development report, “Researchers \[over the past 10 years\] have shown that innovation is a result of large numbers of connection points in a network that cause existing ideas to be combined in new ways.” The report goes on to say that “innovation doesn’t emanate from individual people; it lives in the social network.” 


With that said, soccer’s model provides the best description of a network for learning and practicing genuine collaborative teamwork that leads to improved team effectiveness—and innovation. For example, a large (if not infinite) number of connection points are created in a network consisting of 11 players on the field who operate in a dynamic fashion under constantly changing conditions. Moving the ball on the field equates to causing existing plays (ideas) to be combined in new ways for the purpose of scoring goals (or innovating). 

Develop Mindset Before Skillset 

Most people don’t have a mindset that supports genuine collaborative teamwork. The typical mindset supports group work that is more about cooperating or coordinating with others. This disconnect explains, in part, why team development has been an ongoing challenge in organizations. 

In my book, The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership, I introduce 11 operating principles for practicing genuine collaborative teamwork. These principles mirror actions that happen on the soccer field. Together, they serve as a mindset that teams must adopt to shift from values that favor individual responsibility and performance to ones that favor genuine collaborative teamwork. 

Stay tuned for more articles on collaboration for Millennials in business, women in business, and coaching teams in business!

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