6 Entrepreneurial lessons from the World Cup 2018

Effective teams win in the long run

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Did 2018’s World Cup surprise you? Germany, Argentina, Spain and Portugal didn’t come far. France didn’t play well in all the games but won the Cup. The results surprised millions of soccer lovers.

In this article, I will share SIX LESSONS Entrepreneurs can learn from this year’s World Cup:

1. Change is the fuel of survival

The only guarantee in a world of “snap-chat” moments is change. Winners are able to initiate change because they are smart enough to recognize a changing wind and follow its direction. Renowned teams such as The Netherlands and Italy did not evolve their soccer teams’ strategies. Consequently, they failed to qualify for the World Cup. Failing to change welcomes failure. In business, the same rules apply: If you resist the inevitable, you are destined to perish. Kodak was once a pioneer in the age of digital cameras but could not cope with the rapid flow of change.

2. Humility is the key to greatness

The big winners of yesterday will be tomorrow’s losers if their leaders do not learn new algorithms to grow to the next level. The movie giant Blockbuster comes to mind: their business model lost out to new comers for not refreshing its strategy and preparing for competition. Start-ups founded in a basement five to ten years ago, like Uber and Air BnB, are now powerful, multibillion dollar businesses.

3. Effective teams make the difference

In my new book, “First-Class Leadership,” I demonstrate how highly effective teams are built. These teams do not necessarily have elite players. Nor are they too dependent on such individuals when they have them. In fact, depending too much on an elite player may be a gamble and does not guarantee success. Argentina depended too much on Lionel Messi during this year’s World Cup. France bested Argentina 4-3 in the quarter finals. All teams can learn from Belgium and France, even when Belgium came third.

As an entrepreneur and author, I believe that highly effective teams get better results than individual stars do. If you are an entrepreneur and want to make it to the next round, you do not need to rely on individual stars but rather a team of players with complementary skills and who desire to function as a team.

4. Test your strategies, even on the top

Past success is not a predictor of future results. The big losers are often those who do not evolve their success strategies and stay with the old playbook despite an advancing game. This was the case with the German team. Joachim Löw, the German Coach, tested his strategy. While his team did not book convincing results during friendly matches prior to the World Cup, he did not evolve his team to be competitive in the Cup. Blackberry is a comparable example. The tech company that wowed the world in the mid-2000s stayed too long with its “qwerty keyboard.” Apple’s and Samsung’s smartphones embraced a new approach in software and touch screen technology and soon eclipsed Blackberry’s aging approach.

5. Fear of failure can be paralyzing

Teams aspire to grow to a level where they can beat their competition. The truth is that the competition grows as well. If a top team fails to embrace change and evolve, the upcoming teams who do evolve become tomorrow’s threats. Fear of failure can lead to failure. Some sport coaches believe in the adage, “Never change your winning team.” Perhaps Löw and the Argentinian soccer coach, Sampaoli belong to this category. New situations require new approaches.

Fear of failure keeps entrepreneurs hostage. A fear of failure sounds like, “What if I fail and lose everything?” It is important to remember that indecision is more destructive than making poor decisions!

6. Always conduct a reality check

As I’ve covered in my new book First-Class Leadership, the first principle that many great entrepreneurs apply in new situations is conducting a reality check – instead of thinking, guessing and assuming. By checking we consider that we may not know everything and may need to verify facts.


Today’s world of entrepreneurship is a gladiatorial arena. Every battle in business is won using “fit-for-purpose” tactics. Your adversary may not care about who you are or what your reputation is. To prove your merit, employ a forward-looking, evolutionary strategy to win the day. On guard!

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