What can two players in a match who collaborate to build a brilliant game tell us about team working in business? Or, about dealing with suppliers?
Vinay Kanchan addresses these questions in ‘Lessons from the Playground’, his second book after he debuted as a writer with ‘The Madness Starts at 9’ in 2012. The book has recently been listed as one of the '14 must read management books released in 2014' by DNA Syndication.
The book argues that to make work more interesting, insightful and energetic, it is necessary to receive inputs from other domains. Vinay draws connections between business and the sports world, showing how the former can inspire the latter. “Ultimately,” Vinay says “this is a book on creative thinking.”
“Sport is a vehicle to creativity,” he says. “The energy it provokes into its followers is usually taken as disturbing element in your working routine. But what if we could turn that energy to develop more creative and efficient solutions in our working life?”
‘Lessons from the Playground’ is divided into four sections, each named after a ‘P’:
- People. Vinay chose Pele, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Sachin Tendulkar and Roger Federer, because they are the ‘Goliaths’ of sports. “I could have written an entire book on inspirational people from sport,” he points out, “but I wanted to pick people whose names will stay around for centuries. Different readers could more easily relate to them.”
- Platforms. This refers to the main sports events like the Olympics, World Cups, Wimbledon and Indian hockey.
- Processes. Here the focus is on ideas, rituals, leadership that transformed sports like cricket, football and many others.
- Pinnacles. The last section revolves around the most extraordinary performances of sport stars like Bannister’s under-four minute mile, Kapil Dev at Tunbridge Wells, Maradona at Mexico ‘86, Martina at Wimbledon and Phelps at Beijing.
The reason Vinay decided on this structure was that, “any new idea should be presented in a new fashion or manner. I wanted to proceed in steps, because I wanted to show that every single aspect in sport has a positive influence on business thinking.”
Inspiration lies in details. “If you stretch the analogy, you can always find in sport what is relevant for your work,” he says.
The book - is mainly addressed to those who want to start a career, like MBA students, and are keen to learn new methods of creative thinking. However, the author explains that it is stimulating material for current managers, too.
‘Lessons from the Playground’, however, is not only a manual on intellectual strategies. It also encourages its readers to actually play a sport. “Having a hobby or a parallel activity that keeps your body engaged directly affects the way you think,” Vinay argues.
In his book, he presents the idea of ‘sporting timeout for businesses’. “Many games have strategic timeouts in which the coach calls a break and instructs the players on what to do next. This is something borrowed from the management world. So, why can't it be the other way round?” Vinay wonders. “The ritual of getting away from your chair, going to the open air, opening your perspective to other things, definitely helps one get more creative ideas,” he believes.
Vinay explains that ultimately the book is based on the metaphor that life is a game: “you overcome obstacle, injuries, bad positions, and always face things which are completely out of control,” he says.
“There's a beautiful quote by Andrew David Thoreau which says, ‘It's not about what you look at, it's about what you feel,’ and I think this is the central idea about a business venture. It's much more than just the stroke. It's about the story behind the stroke; the legacy that brings it to people; the cause and the drive that give you energy to overcome difficulties. Sports can help connect the dots.”