Thursday 3 July 2014

England, the World Cup, and lesson learning

Another World Cup, another disappointing early exit for England, another set of pundits talking about lessons and learning, and another nagging feeling that lessons won't get learned. 

 Jordan Henderson commenting that "I'm sure the young lads will learn from that (experience) and it will make them stronger and better.

Chris Waddle saying "England don't learn lessons .... we were very naive in how we performed"

A more sober view of lesson learning comes from the South African paper "The Province" that points out that after the defeat in the previous world cup, the paper suggested 10 things England Football must do in order to improve, of which only three were adopted. In other words, lessons were identified, but few changes made, so the lessons were never learned.

Lesson learning does not just require the individual players to gain experience and become less naive, it requires the whole system to change as a result of the lessons - the tactics, the strategies, the football organisations the way the sport is taught in schools, the way coaches and managers are developed, the way players are allowed to rest, and so on.

Learning is not just for individuals, it is for the whole system, and this is something England may be failing to so.

Learning trumps skill

As this blog has already pointed out, there is a tendency in England to see football as an issue of individual skills and instincts, rather than something that needs to be thought about. This could well be a big issue.

As The Province says
"Some footballers need to appreciate that football is a cerebral activity as much as a physical one .... England’s usual routine after tournament defeat is for manager and players to return home chastened, some of them chased by photographers, enduring a few days’ discomfort before they disappear on holiday, are pictured smiling on sunloungers, the intense domestic season bounds into view and the World Cup disaster is largely forgotten. Life goes on. Yet they need to reflect on their failings here. This applies to the manager ..... Even such an experienced manager (as Hodgson) can still learn, particularly with tactics changing". 
There is no doubt that England has skilled players, but in a changing world, skill is not enough. Skill can be trumped by Learning, and the ideal is a combination of the two - a learning organisation comprised of skilled individuals.

What does this have to do with the world of work?

Working with clients, we often hear people say things like "Selling is a matter of instincts. You can't teach selling - you have to be born with it .....We just put our most experienced people on the team - we don't need lesson learning".

That is the equivalent of saying "football is about instinct, not learning". If your goal is to win - to win the contract or to win the world cup - they you need skills AND learning. And if you lose the contract, then instead of "enduring a few days’ discomfort before they disappear on holiday", the failed team need to sit down together, conduct their Retrospect, analyse the reasons for the failure (both personal and systemic reasons) and put in place the actions that will fix those reasons. 

Only then will you be in a better position to win the next big match, whether it is a World Cup pool match, or a million dollar contract.

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