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Mundial startup recipes: entrepreneurial lessons from the FIFA World Cup

Vinay Kanchan
posted on 14th June 2018
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Starting this week, billions across the globe are going to be alive and kicking. This is because the Football World Cup, or Mundial, commences in Russia in a few days. It is the planet’s single biggest sporting and entertainment stage. All things considered, surely a platform which starts up so many passions and emotions across the globe has some inspirational pointers for those embarking on entrepreneurial goals. Let us set this cerebral ball rolling by examining just a few:

Underdogs can tackle giants

The history of the World Cup is lit up with stories of upsets, where minnows beat the big fish. The US beating England in 1950, North Korea trumping Italy in 1966, Cameroon winning against Argentina in 1990, and recently in 2014, Costa Rica topping a qualifying group, dumping out Italy and England. Sometimes, teams which start off as unknown quantities are the most dangerous opponents. The same holds true for companies entering business domains dominated by big players. While the heavyweights are busy slugging it out, the sheer speed and unconventional approaches of the new and agile little entrants can catch them completely off-guard.

The biggies often pay scant attention to the newcomer, obsessing over their main rivals. When they glance up at the scoreboard, they often find that someone else has sneaked in all the goals.

Everyone should get the ‘total’ picture

The 1974 World Cup ushered in a new idea in public consciousness – ‘total football’. Here forwards defended and defenders attacked. In many ways, it was all about a player on the pitch embracing the perspective and competencies of other positions he had not specialized in. It led to some breathtaking games. Likewise, any organization where every department has the viewpoint of their counterparts downstream (and upstream) firmly on their dashboards is likely to move ahead much further. When this culminates in the entire company having a very clear understanding of what exactly their customer desires, the startups’ operating style (like the performances of the Dutch and German teams in that World Cup) is truly easy on the eye and provides a terrific assist to numbers on the balance sheet.

‘Mistakes’ should be quickly turned around

Mexico-86 is remembered for two Maradona moments, both in the same game against England. First, the brilliant but devious Argentine used his hand to score an unfair goal. Then, four minutes later, perhaps thinking about his legacy, he essayed a jaw-dropping solo goal which showed all his talents in the right light. The essence of this tale is in quickly and immediately righting a wrong. In the mad rush to make a name in the markets, startups often stumble and stutter, especially when it comes to customer experience. But rather than viewing these as setbacks, the company’s think tank should ponder over how these events could be used as opportunities to overcompensate.

Could something which was delivered late be improved in some way? Could a breakdown in a product be a cue to create a ‘moment of magic’ when it comes to the company experience? Just like champion players, startups must also appreciate that falling is inevitable. It’s all about how one gets up and sprints even faster.

Young minds know no fear

The incomparable Pele shone in the 1958 World Cup final, scoring two goals when only 17. The last competition in Brazil was settled by a moment of sheer magic by the then 20-year-old Mario Goetze for Germany. World Cups have illustrated time and again that age is just a number. Match winners, however young, need to be unleashed. Startups these days have a lot of young talent on board. Typically this is also of a ‘young and restless’ variety. If they are not given avenues to explore their potential, they usually leave. Putting young minds at the forefront of things thus has several advantages, not the least of which is the fact that they are unafraid to take the path less trodden when it comes to rising to challenges.

Often when experience hits a brick wall, it’s the young mind which soars beyond and unlocks the door to brighter things.

A startup that plays together stays together

Finally, the World Cup is a month-long celebration which has been known to bring the planet closer together. For once, excellence is universally celebrated. Nations not participating interestingly adopt ‘surrogate’ nations to support. Collective cheers ring across the oceans whenever great goals are scored. It is a festival of the best sort. While playing football is great for one’s health in any case, what is even more interesting to note is the team bonding that happens when people have a memorable experience together. Barriers are broken. Hierarchies disappear. Future conversations become much easier.

There are very few such healthy options that can collectively shape the culture of a company. Not to mention the fact that the game can be the ultimate stress buster. So when the World Cup is on, it might be great to get one’s team to sample some footballing action together by actually shaking a leg. Even if they are completely off tune, this initiative is sure to hit all the right notes.

To conclude, as Russia 2018 kicks off, all the attention will be taken up by the goals scored on the pitch. But in pondering about how the inspiration on the field can be migrated back to the happenings at one’s startup, one just might score some very important organizational goals as well.

Vinay Kanchan is an author and independent trainer in the art of creative thinking.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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