Developing creativity through character

So you’ve got a team of people who are working inefficiently. There might be some creeping attitudes, some pessimism towards change and no one seems to be working on the same page. It’s a familiar story and teams often find it difficult to get out of this vicious cycle. So consider this analogy from the world of sport...

It’s currently the Rugby World Cup, so let’s use a relevant example. Let’s take the World cup winning side in 2011, the mighty New Zealand All Blacks; win rate of 85% from 2004 to 2011 and ranked 1st in the world for 341 weeks between 2003 and 2012.

Not bad you might say, but did this happen by chance? Or was it a sustained, deliberate approach to developing mindset and a culture which allowed for a player-led environment where a key organisational value was person (not player) focused.

“We believed that a person who had their act together off the field of play would play better on the field”

Graham Henry, the coach at the time, stated that what people do shouts so loudly that you can’t hear what they’re saying. From sweeping the changing rooms after practice to presenting ideas as to where they could see the team winning a match, the all blacks focused on developing character. Henry believed in selecting on behaviour, as well as ability. This emphasis not only focused on selecting players who had a strong self-awareness, but also a placement on a continuum of reliance and personal development. This core philosophy led to a collection of players who were striving for personal growth; “better people, make better All Blacks”

“Wanting players to be more accountable, because they are accountable in the field of play”

Henry wanted players who could problem solve, because it was the players who had to problem solve on the pitch. Over any given game week the coaches initially would set the direction, but as the week went on, they allowed the leaders and players to structure more and more of the training so that the coaches weren’t doing anything (doesn’t that sound nice!). What this meant was that players felt free to make decisions, and the only biteback from the wrong decision was their own learning.If you watch the All Blacks during that period, their play was free flowing, decisions were made in split seconds and players almost enjoyed making mistakes, only because they knew they could learn from them and would back themselves to have an opportunity again.

Building the foundations for your creative culture

Creativity doesn’t just happen, we know that. Problems of inefficient work forces and stuttering progress don’t just disappear. This is something that needs to be worked on, and when your business environment adopts a progressive culture, changes begin to happen and problem solving becomes endemic.

You can start by choosing good people, easier said than done, but probe for self-awareness in interviews, watch people when they don’t know that they are being watched, place them in stressful scenarios and if they act consistently considerate, both of their actions and of others then it is likely that personal philosophy is one of growth.

Once you start building this core group of people, give them direction and let them run with it. Allow them to form their own strategy groups, evaluate their own behaviours and as this autonomy takes hold, suggestions for problems will arise.. yes they may not always be the right ones, but back their decisions wholeheartedly as another potential solution may be waiting in the wings.

You may find that some people in the team are not willing to go with this, they resist the change and their actions are not consistent with the philosophy you are trying to embed. Honestly, they are probably not worth it, even if they are your biggest earner.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw wrote in his autobiography in 2012:

“This jersey will show up the frauds, the imposters. It’ll squeeze those who look for shortcuts. You won’t last in this jersey if you’re not prepared to do the things you need to fill it”.

This is a guest post by Richard Collins, a lecturer in Sports Studies at Hartpury College and founder at sports psychology consultancy Head for a Win.

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