I’m watching a lot of World Cup Football at the moment, along with much of the world’s population, and while I know it may be a cliché to draw parallels between sport and business, I think the insight into collaboration is well explained when you look at how effective teams play together.
Infact, I came across this article in Harvard Business Review recently that makes the point perfectly by looking at what businesses can learn from Tiki-Taka (otherwise known as Total Football) - a relatively new brand of football strategy that demands rapid adaptation, frenetic interaction and flexible roles:
“Companies have much to learn from the world’s best soccer teams in using ‘swarm intelligence’ to tackle complexity...use the collective intelligence of all their employees to improve products, services, and processes.”
Thinking in particular about the collaboration that must take place within an organisation to manifest this ‘swarm intelligence’, Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are the best tool with which to achieve this. But only if people actually ‘turn up’ and use it.
You’ll immediately notice that the highest performing teams in this World Cup work so well together as a unit. They get into space, make themselves available, communicate instinctively and are where they need to be, when they are needed.
Too often within organisations, people seem to think social collaboration on ESNs is some sort of natural or magical process and don’t see themselves as having responsibilities to it. Commitment is transient. But to collaborate effectively using social business applications takes timely attention and communication; and perhaps most importantly presence. Team members collaborating on a document, a solution or a deal need to be available to respond at the moment of need (not merely when it suits them). When commitment to social collaboration is lethargic or half-hearted, opportunities are simply missed or conceded to the competition.
One apparent parallel between business and football is between idea formulation or problem solving. If you watch the intricate passing of the ball as it moves up the pitch, all players are watching the flow and waiting / seeking an opportunity to contribute and add value. The model keeps changing and anyone not paying attention will miss their moment. Reading and interpreting the movement is key to ensuring each participant understands what is expected of them when it is their turn to perform.
Another parallel is in solving customer problems, internal case resolution, or any situation that requires timely delivery of information or input. As with a cross into the penalty box - goals are only scored when the pass is well weighted and team members are positioned to receive the ball. Effective social collaboration relies on relevant information being received by the right people that are positioned to respond with meaningful answers.
From a leadership perspective it’s quite interesting to see how individual marquee players may affect the team moral and overall success. Even though the game comprises 11 team-mates, this World Cup has especially demonstrated the effects of losing leading players at critical junctures. These players infuse confidence and their experience assists the team to deal with difficult situations. The role of senior leadership within a collaboration community is often cited as best practice however it is such a vital ingredient that it should never be glossed over or underestimated.
Like in all sports, the pace of change and fierceness of competition in today’s marketplace is furious and faster than ever. It is a team’s understanding of what commitment is required, the ability to work together and most importantly, relying on each other to contribute their part that will lead to successful social business collaboration.