Tip from Brazil: Keep eyes on the ball

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2014

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Businesses could learn plenty from the football World Cup, says a Waikato psychologist.

A senior fellow at Waikato University's Management School, Dr Colleen Rigby, said Brazil's meltdown in the quarterfinal against Germany highlighted exactly what not to do as an organisation.

The passionate football fan said the team displayed "arrogant organisation disorder," where "excessive pride" develops and the team stops focusing on performance.

"Then they get these feelings of entitlement," she said, an outlook that could see teams or organisations fall rapidly into complacency.

"I think a lot of businesses do that," she said, pointing to Theresa Gattung's eight-year reign at Telecom.

"She was one of the most powerful women in the world [Gattung placed 46 on Forbes' 2006 list of the world's most powerful women].

"Yet when the Government was indicating it needed to split [Telecom was split into three operational divisions], she just didn't hear the message. She just became obsessed with the fact that Telecom was so successful and [thought] it was actually OK to keep doing what they were doing."

Rigby said the Brazilian team had also failed to develop depth of leadership, and suffered as a consequence.

"They lost their appointed leader, which was their captain; they lost their spiritual leader in a sense in Neymar, who was the inspiration for the team," she said.

"They didn't have any leadership left, so no-one else stepped up and people became individualists on the day."

Rigby said Neymar dropping out of the Brazilian team "was equivalent to Steve Jobs resigning from Apple under pressure, and then having to be brought back".

Along with keeping humble and developing leaders, Rigby said businesses needed to keep their eye on the innovation ball.

"They [Brazil] played soccer on the beach and in the slums and they developed all these unique and innovative moves and skills. They were quite dramatic and different on the soccer field to everyone else," she said, but then they became "very conformist" in their approach.

Rigby said the team also became "quite commercially driven" because many financially strapped Brazilian clubs sold off a lot of their players to Europe.

"There's something about having the right people in your team and being able to retain them, and make some sacrifices if that's necessary."

However, there was hope in sight for any business that failed the World Cup test, she said. Brazil had lost the World Cup in 1950 and it "completely transformed the way they approached the next few world cups, so losing is not going to be a bad thing for them provided they take the learnings from that."

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Rigby said the key for an organisation was to ensure it had clear vision, clear goals, clear roles and the right people to fill the roles. They also needed to ensure "they've got depth of leadership and driven by passion."

- Stuff

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