Collaboration lessons from the World Cup

The real reason that so many people are gravitating to the World Cup, of course, is that the games inspire them to become better collaborators in the workplace. Obviously. As we’ve pointed out in hard-hitting investigative photo galleries in the past, this is the same reason that people tune in to Game of Thrones, The Walking DeadBreaking Bad and Downton Abbey.

Skeptical? Well, just look at how well your coworkers are collaborating on ways to watch the game in the middle of the workday.

Beyond “it takes teamwork to win” platitudes, what else are we learning from the World Cup?

You don’t always have to play nice

VCU’s Kelsey Kearney says she learned valuable leadership lessons during her time on the field. “It’s okay to be competitive,” she says. “Growing up and in school, competition isn’t always encouraged. You are told to ‘play nice’ and ‘make sure everyone has a turn.'”

There are some “Kumbaya” misconceptions about a collaborative work culture. Embracing collaboration doesn’t mean giving everyone an equal voice or sinking to the level of your weakest link.

With that said: try not to bite anybody.

Corporate pivot

Adapt; don’t be stubborn about your strategy

Whether you’re a talent-laden juggernaut or a scrappy underdog, your success will be impacted – and likely significantly impacted – by how you react to the unexpected, like surrendering a goal in the opening seconds or abruptly losing a major client. Plus, no matter your level of preparation, elite competition will likely put up a few obstacles you didn’t anticipate.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” said Mike Tyson. There’s no shame in retreating and reevaluating.

You gotta shoot to score

In the darkest days of your job, you may feel stuck in a 0-0 rut. You aren’t losing, per se, but, try as you might, you can’t seem to make a big impact. Or perhaps the rational, skeptical side of your brain is telling you to not risk putting yourself out on a limb.

The beautiful game to the rescue! Says Mediate co-founder and CEO James Melamed: “Soccer has taught me not to worry about being perfect (there are far more missed shots than made shots). Critically, soccer has taught me to shoot, to take chances, to believe. Soccer has taught me to be my best, and that being my best means being in ongoing coordination and collaboration with those around me.”

Don’t take it personally when someone points out inefficiencies in your process

“Did the ball actually cross the goal line?” is a pretty important question in the World Cup. This year, referees are getting a little help with the answer, thanks to goal-sensing technology, which involves seven cameras aimed at each goal. The adoption of this technology is an acknowledgement that referees are not perfect, but many refs were quick to endorse the new solution anyway.

Enthusiasm is contagious

We talk about this a lot in terms of user adoption and change management, but it applies to any business initiative: sell your vision to your teammates. Why should they care? What’s in it for them? Let them know – then let them know again. Let your passion lead by example – as long as it’s genuine; most employees can detect false enthusiasm in their peers and bosses.

How does this apply to soccer? I’ll let The Simpsons explain.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.