Rugby World CUp

"Entrepreneurial businesses are founded on flashes of inspiration and boundless energy to build on them," says Malcolm Durham from Flexible Directors, and then he draws a parallel with rugby and the recent 6 Nations tournament.

Well that was interesting wasn’t it? Instead of a procession behind England’s apparently unstoppable chariot, the 6 Nations championship went to the best processors in Europe (Ireland).

Tight games showed that the difference between the teams is small. It always was. Consider two events in the final minute of matches.

  • In 2017 against England Jonathan Davies of Wales miskicked, the ball stayed in play and England scored to snatch victory.
  • This year France miskicked and England rumbled up the middle until they lost possession and the match.
These decisive moments abounded: Scotland were one pass away from beating Wales (away) and one kick saved them from losing to Italy.

But that was the also rans. The most interesting play was the last one by Ireland in Paris where 20+ phases of Irish possession culminated in a drop goal that squeezed them past their hosts. It was this ability to keep the ball until an opening appeared that made them worthy champions this season. Processes are by their very nature dull – the ability to repeat actions is the opposite of creativity – but are the bedrock from which peak performance, such as a drop goal from the edge of a player’s range, flow. Entrepreneurial businesses are founded on flashes of inspiration and boundless energy to build on them. When this phase has been completed, and the business is able to produce repeatedly, is often when its growth stalls because it is headed by someone who feels that the imposition of processes will stifle the creative energy which is its lifeblood. How this difference is reconciled depends on the skill and maturity of the individuals involved – stay calm and know yourself and the problem is resolved by accepting change and even changing leadership roles so that everyone can be the best of themselves. Feel threatened; defend one’s territory “the right to run the business” and failure looms

And creativity is also essential. After the first game against Italy and the next 20 minutes, against Wales, England produced some of the most mind numbing rugby I’ve ever seen. There was simply not enough energy – a pre-requisite of creativity - and when the processes broke the team formerly ranked second in the world were repeatedly second best.

The Egg Chasers had predicted their downfall and quoted Phil Kearns, who played in Eddie Jones’ Australian side, and the Japanese team. All said two things:

  • He made a positive difference for the first two years
  • He worked everybody so hard that after that they couldn’t keep up/cope and results went downhill.
The art of managing a business is to allow freedom within a framework, as my colleague and good friend Jon Davidge, among others, says. Keeping a mix of structure – ie process – and allowing variations from it – creativity - when the conditions are right is impossible to prescribe, which is why the job is never done.

This all pre-supposes a good product/service/team. As the games progressed and the chances of an England victory receded I had time to recall how Jason Robinson saved England’s World Cup chances in the quarter final against Wales in 2003 and wondered if our recent success was down to something more basic - Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi (who was immense in our last victory over the All Blacks). Perhaps we just need one (ideally two) of them “comin’ for to carry [ the World Cup] home”?