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Closing the Collaboration Mindset Gap

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Many leaders view collaboration as the key to innovation and future business growth. Unfortunately, there is a mindset gap for practicing genuine team collaboration. Enter soccer as a model for collaboration.

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 where team success is directly related to the players’ abilities to apply a collaborative mindset, recognizing the interdependent relationship for harnessing the power of connection points across the team’s network (field) to produce winning outcomes. (See 11 operating principles introduced in earlier posts for more.)

These principles may not be a marked departure from what some describe as traditional team management. 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 to close gaps in communication, innovation, and productivity.
Here’s the problem: Although I’ve challenged touted soccer as a viable platform to help build a collaborative mindset, it’s been a tough challenge to sell it to a culture (or market) that promotes individual performance over team performance.


Why is it hard to sell soccer as a model for effective collaboration? For some, the use of another sports metaphor may not resonate. For others, they may carry a bias against soccer because it’s not as popular in the United States. Perhaps others claim they don’t understand the nuances of a sport that only scores a few goals in a game and is seemingly less exciting. And some people just don’t understand how the game is played—or have ever taken the time to learn.

Here’s the god news: 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, because this may indicate that this generation places a higher value on team performance rather than individual performance. They’re also a generation more comfortable with collaboration—and they’ve grown up with technology to help facilitate collaboration.

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.

So what do you think needs to change to successfully sell soccer as a viable platform when it comes to collaboration and team development? Share your ideas in the Comments below.

About the Author

Winsor Jenkins is president of Winsor Jenkins & Associates, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. As a leader who served in senior HR positions and contributed to the professional development of countless business executives, including HR managers, Winsor brings a deep knowledge about what it takes to achieve executive-level leadership in today's changing business landscape. He is the author of The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership.

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