Feb 042010

Whole person education
I am not really a fan of sports. I was a drama and computer geek all through high school and university, and never really bought into the “whole person” education argument, at least until I could see the link between team dynamics in rowing and in companies.

I grew up in New Orleans, whose Saints are headed to the Super Bowl this Sunday. You can’t really come from New Orleans and not bleed black and gold– even the most die-hard non-sports people in my family and friends are all excited for this Sunday. The Saints have always been a decent all-round team, but have never really been very good at anything– generally better offensively, but aside from the Morten Anderson years, never a particularly strong scorers or on defence.

Until this last year.

The Change
I’ve been watching mostly highlight reels (hey, I live in the UK, and with no TV, it’s easier). I noted one thing: Every game talked about a defense who scores, and a team turning over the ball, a lot.

What they’ve done is picked (or identified) a core competetive advantage: The Strip. The Who Dat boys have decided that defence is not about stopping the team moving forward but about getting the ball back, which means knocking it out of the hands of the offensive players and turning it over. This has an enormous effect on the opposing team: They suddenly have to play defensively and in many cases the defense has scored.

The Saints are now the highest scoring team in the NFL.

What’s this have to do with business?
I know, sports metaphors are somewhat overwrought, and American Football metaphors are lost on my heavily-influenced UK/EU audience. Sorry about that. American Football works so well because it lends itself to analysis as it’s a play-by-play game.

Entrepreneurs (and up-and-running businesses): What are you good at? Do that.
The great thing about entrepreneurs is that they are on top of the world, and feel they can do anything. The worst thing is that, particularly in the early days when revenue is scarce and as deals fly by because they’re “not quite right”, they feel they can do anything.

Here’s the thing: If you’re a decent team, say, a consultancy, the temptation is to diverge from your goals and do too many things. Pick one thing that you do really well, and do that one. Do it well. Pass on work that isn’t quite right, or better yet, tell the potential client how you’d approach it within your own framework. Be unambigious about how the game is played– that you focus on the ball (metrics, change management, ideas-to-market, etc).

We focus at the intersection of ideas, people, and technology, building organisational capacity to bring products to market.

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