I’m not advocating sorcery. Capitalise All and Black and you will see that, just for a change, my focus is what we can learn from sport in general and rugby in particular.
One of the differences between rugby and, say, football is the amount of change in its rules. Aficionados laugh at the line outs of yesteryear when lifting in the line out was banned rather than being the thing of beauty it is today. And changes happen every season. This year tackles that involve contact with the head are being clamped down on (sort of) and teams have to adapt. On Saturday I saw no neck roils – the practice of getting an opponent out of the ruck by twisting his neck so that he has the option of parting either form the ruck or his torso – because this was outlawed in 2013/14. But there are still some reckless tackles that involve contact with the head – one incident in the Wales v Australia game comes to mind although it was deemed not to be illegal and so I can’t comment. Both England and New Zealand seem to have adapted to the new rules very well – nether team was penalised for this. For businesses this ability to adapt to new rules that also seem to be constantly changing is also essential. GDPR is our current “high tackle” law and those that understand it will not be held back.
Understanding the environment allows you to perform well, and both teams performed extremely well at times. England sucked in the All Black defence and gave Chris Ashton the easiest run in he could have asked for against international opposition. They followed this with a push over from the forwards (and a few backs too).
Then nothing. Not a point scored by the all whites in the remaining 60 minutes. Why? Because the All Blacks adapted to the specific challenges posed by the game. They subdued us and then penetrated our defence, as well as our attack, a process which we, um, didn’t.
I think it is this ability to deal with what is happening NOW and deal with it NOW that is the exceptional skillset that makes the All Blacks one, if not the, leading sports teams in the world. Feeling supported enough to be confident, to accept failure (two tries) and suggest a new approach, comes from a culture of continuous improvement in which the fundamental human need for safety is so well entrenched that it can be forgotten and risk – changing the processes – is safer than safety – keeping bu**erring on as the bulldog spirit exhorts. That may sound upside down. Maybe it’s because it’s practised by a team that is on the ‘bottom’ side of the world?