Collaborative teams: an outstanding team of individuals – not a team of outstanding individuals

So, the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final passed at the weekend, a game where Alf Ramsey’s England won 4-2 after extra-time against West Germany. The England scorers included a hat-trick from Geoff Hurst (18th, 101st, 120th minutes), a feat yet to be matched.

Whilst Hurst took the plaudits, England was an outstanding team of individuals, not a team of outstanding individuals, and this approach to building winning teams has many lessons for start-ups. Let’s look back.

This is the day we’ve all been waiting for says Kenneth Wolstenholme at the start of the BBC commentary. Saturday 30 July 1966. Match day. The lads are there in a fidgeting line in the gloom of the tunnel, behind Sir Alf, waiting to come out. Four of them are bouncing balls whilst the others are staring ahead, silent with their own thoughts.

England is in cherry red shirts, full sleeved with a simple round neck, plain, no logos or adverts. A modest football kit that today resonates with emotion. The Germans are in crisp white shirts with black trim and black shorts.

The English team comes out of the tunnel into the roar of pandemonium English support, rattles and klaxon horns. The weather forecast said ‘sunny periods and showers, becoming dry later’.

The Queen takes to the Royal Box in time for the national anthem. She’s wearing an ostentatious hat, which matches her handbag. What’s in the bag? Programme and pie, I’d imagine. Perchance some toffees. Next to her is FIFA president Stanley Rous, presumably holding Her Majesty’s Bovril.

The Royal Marine band play a few tunes, then the German anthem, like the British one before it, is met with a silent respect that speaks volumes for the Sixties football fan. No need to be opening old sores 21 years down the line. Then, as the last notes fade out, a roar of anticipatory bedlam, bedlam, bedlam. What an atmosphere.

Moore and Seeler, the captains, shake hands and exchange plaques and pennants. Bobby wins the toss and elects to defend the goal England picked for the warm up. The spare balls are kicked away, and the two teams line up ready to go.

The Germans looked the more dangerous in the opening minutes, Haller and Held leading menacing sorties and Seeler using his head to good advantage. Haller shoots West Germany into a 12th minute lead following Wilson’s misdirected header. He thought scoring the opening goal entitled him to keep the match ball – that was the custom in German football – but there was someone else who wanted that ball too.

England, behind for the first time in the tournament, equalised six minutes later. Hurst positioned himself perfectly to head home Moore’s quick free-kick. The German defence gave little away in the second period and only 12 minutes remained when Peters scored after Hurst’s centre had struck a defender and looped invitingly into the air. From that range Peters could hardly miss.

As England hung on for the final whistle, Jackie Charlton was adjudged, harshly, to have fouled on the edge of the box. The free-kick, blasted at the wall by Emmerich, appeared to strike Schnellinger’s hand before rolling on for Weber to shoot, almost in slow motion, past Banks’ desperate lunge. Gutted. 2-2.

Alf Ramsey’s speech at full-time  – You’ve won the World Cup once, now, go and win it againwas akin to Henry V at Agincourt. England looked fitter and fresher in extra time and continued to play with confidence and composure. Hurst scored with a drive on the turn, which hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line with Tilkowski, the flamboyant German keeper, well beaten.

The goal was disputed by the Germans – and still is. The Swiss referee, Gottfried Dienst, asked the nearer linesman Mr. Bakhramov from the USSR (what is now Azerbaijan), and between them they agreed that it was a goal. Of course it was Gottfried.

German heads dropped as they lost their concentration, such that with the last kick of the match, Hurst completed a personal triumph by scoring with a firm left-footer, cheeks sucked in as he lashed the ball forward. Proper goal. Apparently some of the crowd were on the pitch. And he got to keep the match ball. Not bad for a bloke from Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester.

A day to remember, even if like me, it’s from videos and news cuttings. England lined up: Banks, Cohen, Wilson, Stiles, Charlton (J), Moore, Ball, Charlton (R), Hurst, Peters, Hunt.

We all want to be in a winning team, getting the results and enjoying the success. But what qualities do you see in that 1966 England team that you can learn from for building a startup team? Moving from your MVP to pivot and scaling, startup teams often are built quickly and have to come together to collaborate.

Research into team behaviour reveals an interesting paradox: team characteristics of size, virtual distribution, diversity and specialism in membership, are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done. To put it another way, the qualities required for success are the same qualities that undermine success.

So how can we strengthen a startup’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks to maximise the effectiveness of size and diversity, while minimising the disadvantages posed by their structure, composition and individuality? Research by Gratton & Erickson, and Newton offers insight into how to maximise collaborative team performance.

In the uncertainty of a startup, we need all hands on deck, we need people to own their work, not just rent a space on the organisation chart. We need everyone to be committed and engaged, building a culture of ownership where everyone is inspired to think and act like partners in the enterprise, and not just hired hands. Collaborative teamwork releases the synergies and efficiencies – many hands make light work.

However, collaboration isn’t quite as straightforward as you think. In his research entitled Six Common Misperceptions about Teamwork, Professor J R Hackman, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University, highlights a number of issues. Whilst teamwork and collaboration are critical to achievement in any organisation, his research not only affirmed that idea but also surfaced a number of mistaken beliefs about teamwork that can sidetrack productive collaboration. I summarise them here:

Belief: Harmony helps.

Reality: Quite the opposite, research shows conflict, when well managed and focused on a team’s objectives, can generate more creative solutions than in conflict-free groups. Creative tension can be good for a team. Research on symphony orchestras shows that slightly ‘grumpy’ orchestras played better as ensembles than those whose members worked together harmoniously. The tension stirs a reaction, creating personal and collective energy to make it happen.

Belief: It’s good to mix it up.

Reality: The longer members stay together as an intact 
group, the better they do. As unreasonable as this may seem, the research evidence is unambiguous. Whether it is a rugby team or a fire brigade unit, teams that stay together longer, play together better. New members bring energy and fresh ideas to a team, without them, and whilst a stable team risks becoming complacent, new talent can be disruptive.

Research into the achievement of Michelin Stars by top-notch restaurant kitchens illustrate this. Chefs of all ranks require a number of months to fully become in tune with the workflow, menu, layout and systems in a new kitchen. In addition to the more formal, structured aspects of working in the kitchen, they must also work to find their place within the team, to prove themselves and become a productive member of the unit.

In good kitchens new chefs also receive a degree of training specific to their position. All of this takes time and uses up kitchen resources, therefore when the average tenure is low, the return on investment on chefs is low. Accordingly, high turnover means that many kitchens are being held back as their team never fully matures to a point of achieving their optimal results and an intuitive collaboration that top performance requires achieving the Michelin star rating.

Belief: Bigger is better.

Reality: Excessive size is one of the most common impediments to effective collaboration. The larger the group, the higher the likelihood of loafing and free riding, and the more effort it takes to keep activities coordinated. Small teams are more efficient, the sense of camaraderie and team spirit of a tightly-knit team can often leverage a greater degree of output – it’s the David v Goliath situation, and research shows the Davids win in 29% of situations when facing a Goliath who has ten-times the scale of resources – underdogs win more often than you think because of the collaborative spirit and energy.

Belief: Face-to-face interaction is passé.

Reality: Teams working remotely are at a considerable disadvantage. There really are benefits to sizing up your teammates face-to-face. Organisations that rely heavily on virtual or distributed teams have found that it is well worth the effort, time and cost to get members together when the team is launched, again around the midpoint of the team’s work, and yet again when the work has been completed for shared reflection and learning.

Belief: It all depends on the leader.

Reality: The hands-on activities of leaders do make a difference, but the most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves. Research suggests that condition-creating accounts for about 60% of the variation in how well a team eventually performs; that the quality of the team launch accounts for another 30%; and that real-time coaching accounts for only about 10%. Leaders are important in collaborative work, but not in the ways we usually think. Creating the conditions for self-managed teams should be the aim of a leader.

Belief: Teamwork is serendipity.

Reality: The best leaders provide a clear statement of what the team’s goals are, and they make sure that the team has the resources and support needed to succeed. Back to the kitchen, and the head chef will always play a pivotal role in dictating the kitchen’s success, however it is interesting to note the importance on how well the team are formed. Staff are hired based on their experience, skill level etc., but less importance is placed on how effective they will be as part of the team.

It’s clear for startups that collaboration is the best way to work because together people have a combined set of skills to respond to any challenge thrown at the enterprise. With pressure on cashflow, a startup needs to be greater than the sum of its parts and leverage beyond actual headcount.

Collaboration is also important in a startup not just because it’s a better way to work, but also to learn. Learning to collaborate is part of equipping a startup for problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy. Life is not a solo act, we all need to assemble around us the people who can make a difference for each other.

So, pause for a moment and reflect back on ’66. England, an outstanding team of individuals – not a team of outstanding individuals – everyone played their part, and everyone was over the moon, a genuine collaborative effort. As Shakespeare said ‘we few, we happy few, we band of brothers’, and that joined-up mentality can be the difference in getting a startup off the ground.

Entrepreneurial learning journey: steel bands of Antigua

The Caribbean is made up of over 5,000 islands, reefs and cays, each with its own unique attractions, local cuisine and culture, the perfect destination for a relaxing break. Boasting picturesque white sandy beaches, charming villages and friendly locals, Antigua is my favourite Caribbean destination. It has intimacy, simplicity – and coconut ice cream in abundance wherever you go.

So I recently set off to spend a week in the Antiguan sun, and like my visit to America back in November, aimed to build upon my research and unearth new insights from local entrepreneurs operating in different cultures. I am curious to learn from practitioners and share their experience, and I am just downright nosey too!

The seductive steel pan sounds hang in the air and hit you long before you see the brightly coloured gazebo and the ensemble beneath it – an animated crew of musicians in perfect harmony, arms flailing everywhere, united by a single passion. Here in Antigua, something magical is afoot.

The intoxicating sounds and rhythm of steel pans reverberates through your body, it stirs the emotions and engulfs the mind. This is food for the soul and you can’t help but be entranced.

Concentration is etched on the musician’s faces, the performers are lost to the effort, arms whirring, brought back only by the jubilant applause. Boy, are they having fun, laughing and swaying, it’s a spectacle of sheer human enjoyment, simple in its creation but such a richness of acoustics, an uplifting, epic sight.

Once dubbed the devil’s music, a ghetto pastime with instruments as rudimentary as hubcaps and scrap metal, traditional Antiguan steel bands are today as much part of Antiguan culture as Carnival, goat curry and fried dumplings.

The steel band originated from French planters and their slaves who emigrated to Trinidad & Tobago during the French Revolution. The slaves formed their own celebration called canboulay, taken from stick-fighting and African percussion music that was banned in response to the Canboulay Riots.

They were replaced bamboo sticks beaten together, which were themselves banned in turn. In 1937 they reappeared in Trinidad, transformed as an orchestra of frying plans, dustbin lids and oil drums. In 1941, the US Navy arrived on Trinidad, which began the international popularisation of the steel pan sound.

Today, the modern pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument. The pan is struck using a pair of straight sticks tipped with rubber, the size and type of rubber tip varies according to the class of pan being played. Some musicians use four pansticks, holding two in each hand.

Pythagoras calculated the formula for the musical cycle of ‘fourths and fifths’, and steel pans follow this configuration, designed by Anthony Williams, in an arrangement of notes known as the ‘cycle of fifths’. Williams is one of the great pioneers of the steel pan, along with Winston “Spree” Simon, Ellie Mannette and Neville Jules. These four innovators have lead the development of the instrument in terms of design, sound and craftsmanship, true entrepreneurs, and revered by every band.

The standard form of note placement for lead pans enabled tuning of harmonic overtones in individual notes, a key feature in the orchestration of the instrument and the sounds we have today.

Today’s steel pans are built using sheet metal with a thickness between 0.8 mm and 1.5 mm, no longer the traditional build from used oil barrels. In a first step, the sheet metal is stretched into a bowl shape (this is commonly known as ‘sinking’). This process is usually done with hammers, manually or with the help of air pressure.

The note pattern is then marked onto the surface, and the notes of different sizes are shaped and moulded into the surface. After the tempering, the notes have to be softened and tuned (initial tuning). The note’s size corresponds to the pitch – the larger the oval, the lower the tone. There are lead pans, double tenors, double seconds, double and triple guitars, four cellos and various bass pans. Some have as many as 36 notes.

The world’s oldest, continuously operating steel orchestra is Hell’s Gate, based in Antigua, with this year marking its 70th anniversary. Founded as Housecoat Band in 1945, the instruments first used were automotive clutch housings, hollowed piped, biscuit cans, pieces of solid iron. They were obtained from Townsend’s Blacksmith shop on Mariners Lane, St. John’s.

The name Hell’s Gate was given to the band by the people of the local area, chosen mainly because of the local noise and variety of rhythmic beats produced by the then instruments used. I suspect they are more accomplished musicians today, notwithstanding their moniker.

I enjoyed talking to and learning from the players about the history of their instruments and their culture, but my biggest takeaway was their passion for their band. The team spirit they showed was infectious, togetherness and sense of community was awe-inspiring. Benjamin Franklin said We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately and the sense of kinship and shared identity was poignant.

So what lessons did I take from the steel pan bands for entrepreneurs to consider in their businesses?

1. Build a team based on camaraderie and trust Shared experiences over time build relationships and friendships. The bands I saw played with a collective responsibility to make the song sound good. If someone faltered, the rest of the band noticed it, and rallied to make it right. They seemed to say ‘We sound as good as our weakest link’, but there was no stopping, no blaming, they played through and figured it out through eye contact, facial expressions, and sometimes wild gestures and cries of encouragement – followed by laughter.

Every part of a team is important. Every part contributes. There is amazing satisfaction in coming together with a team, working hard to perform a show. The teamwork in a steel band is about individual and group self-improvement, underpinned by trust, competing with self, comparing results with self over time, but recognising success is as a collective.

2. It matters who you take on your journey with you I was taken by how the bands had come together. They were strangers when they first met together as a band, and some players have played for a handful of months, others for over twenty years – different ages, ethnicities, personalities, life circumstances. Yet all were supportive and kind to the other, with a common goal of making music together and having fun.

It matters who you surround yourself with. It was almost tribal. Is your team positive and optimistic? Or toxic and pessimistic? Choose kind, sincere, warm, compassionate, fun people. Remember also that it’s more enjoyable going through life, and gigs, with a tribe rather than going it alone.

3. As a team, do hard things that scare you Showing up where people see you – in life or on stage – is both hard and scary. Trying new things is hard and scary. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to be critiqued or judged, is hard and scary. Do these things anyway. The bands seemed to playing as complex music as they could in creating their unique sounds, they didn’t sit back and just play the tunes they knew well.

We don’t get a choice to show up to life every day. Every day that you wake up, there are opportunities for people to judge you, to critique you. So your choice then is to either build walls around yourself to try to minimize these hard moments in life, or you can accept that life is hard and scary, and that you can do hard and scary things. The applause at the end shows the effort is worthwhile.

4. Ensure the team lives in the moment It flies by. Time is a blur. So when I stood watching the performance behind their steel drum kits, I was mindful as I looked around and breathed in the lights and sounds and smells. This was my moment. I was not going to walk away not remembering this. I made every moment count in the spectacle. And so did the players.

It did fly by, but I know I lived in each of those minutes, and it was glorious. Life speeds by too. Don’t get caught up in a future that may not occur, or stuck in the past that you can’t change. We can’t slow life down, but we can savour every moment of it.

5. Make it your own, and own it Some of the bands had fantastic individual musicians, with years of experience. Several times I say younger players asking them for advice, if she could play certain chords this way or that way. The answer, after giving them guidance, was always the same, decide what you’re going to do and make it your own. If anyone questions you about it, tell them it’s your style and you’re sticking to it.

Simply put, do what you’re comfortable with. Do what you’re capable of. Be proud of that. And you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone else. Above all else, enjoy yourself. Things will happen that we can’t control. You lose a drumstick. Bad things happen on stage and in life. But have fun anyway. This is the one life you have. Make it a good one before you exit stage left.

For an effective team in any endeavour, there are two truisms: Many of us are more capable than some of us, but none of us is as capable as all of us; not one of us could be as good as all of us playing unselfishly. No one can play the steel drum sound alone, it takes a whole band to play it and it’s the same in any business or organisation where team spirit, collaboration and togetherness create success.

Lessons from the Hakone Ekiden for building Startup teams

The Hakone Ekiden, which ran on 2 and 3 January, was compelling viewing on television – I’ve finally got round to catching up this week. It has a lot to tell us about Japanese culture, besides signposting some lessons for building startup teams.

Under Mount Fuji’s gaze, a runner collapses into his teammates’ arms, sobbing as he retches, legs flailing like a newborn colt’s, delirious from wringing strength from his body. The end of the punishing mountain stage of the Hakone Ekiden university relay race, the crowd still give him a cheer as loud as the winner’s, even though he has just suffered the humiliation of clocking the worst time in a field of twenty as he finishes last.

Hakone Ekiden, which is officially called Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race is one of the most prominent university ekiden (relay marathon) races of the year in Japan. This two-day race from Ōtemachi to Hakone and back is separated into five sections on each day. Due to slight variations in the courses, the first day distance is 108.0 km while the distance on the second day is 109.9 km. Only male runners are allowed to run.

Five sections are provided between Tokyo and Hakone each way. Each runner runs one section, switching with his next teammate at a station. Each team has ten runners, running with their teams’ sashes, which are handed over to the next runner on the team at each station, like a baton in a traditional relay race. If a runner cannot get to a station within twenty minutes after the top runner reached it, the next runner starts with a substitute sash. The time difference is added to the total team time.

Twenty universities participate, ten of them are seeded teams that qualify by virtue of finishing in the top ten the previous year. The 2016 individual winner was Kazuma Kubota, and his team Aoyama Gakuin University, which for nine decades had a blank victory slate, won for the second year in a row.

Hakone Ekiden was started in 1920. Shizo Kanaguri, who is known as the father of the Japanese marathon, conceived the race. His enthusiastic idea of bringing up a runner who could compete in the world became the driving force of establishing the event. When Kanaguri was a student, he participated in Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912 as one of the representative Japanese marathon runners. He had to give up his race on the way, however, and thus failed to finish.

The course starts in central Tokyo and runs out of the city, up the mountains to the foot of Mount Fuji. The next day, it turns around and runs back again. All of the ten stages are very close to a half marathon in distance. For Japan, the Hakone Ekiden is one of the biggest sporting events of the year and a ritual of national bonding. Values of grit and teamwork are bundled into a romantic package of nostalgia for youth. The Hakone Ekiden is a good way to understand individual and team strengths.

Celebrated attributes of cooperation, duty, bloody-mindedness and perfectionism are distilled into twelve hours of oddly riveting viewing. The key image is the university sash, called the tasuki, passed from one runner to the next until the final leg. It symbolises the paradox of a collective endeavour that relies on the loneliness of individual achievement. Therein also lies its emotional and physicality of what constitutes hard work.

None of this prevents Hakone from being one of the world’s most beautiful races. In the end, it’s all about the runners with their vast reservoirs of heart, strength and talent. Even when hope is lost, they give everything they have. It is Japan’s biggest sporting event of the year. Nike, Mizuno, Oakley and other sports companies all release special Hakone-branded products.

One reason the race is so compelling is because the whole dynamic changes every time the teams hand over the baton, the tasuki. A team that was trailing finds its star man on top form and suddenly it’s back in the race. Or a runner starting with a big lead falters, the chasers hunt him down, and it’s game on again. It’s like someone takes the race at every changeover and gives it a big shake, before settling it down again to see what happens. The lead ebbs and flows. I left feeling as though I’ve witnessed something epic. The greatest race on Earth? It just may be.

At some point in the various twists and turns in our startup journeys we embark upon, we can find ourselves in similar situations. We may get to a stage where we feel like giving up. Sometimes we give up before we even start and other times we give up just before we are about to make that huge breakthrough that we have been putting so much effort in to achieve. Stories like the Hakone Ekiden show we should never give up, and how collaboration between individuals can be truly game changing.

In the stormy seas of a startup, we need all hands on deck, we need people to own their work, not just rent a space on the organisation chart. We need everyone to be committed and engaged, building a culture of ownership where each and every member of the crew are inspired to think and act like partners in the enterprise, and not just hired hands. Collaborative, individual teamwork releases the synergies and efficiencies – many hands make light work.

However, collaboration isn’t quite as straightforward as you think. In his research entitled Six Common Misperceptions about Teamwork, Professor J R Hackman, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University – brings to light a number of issues. Whilst teamwork and collaboration are critical to achievement in any organisation that has to respond quickly to changing circumstances, his research has not only affirmed that idea but also surfaced a number of mistaken beliefs about teamwork that can sidetrack productive collaboration.

So what is the impact on building an effective startup team?

Belief: Harmony helps. Smooth interaction among collaborators avoids time-wasting debates about how best to proceed.

Reality: Quite the opposite, research shows conflict, when well managed and focused on a team’s objectives, can generate more creative solutions than one would expect to see. Research on symphony orchestras shows that slightly ‘grumpy’ orchestras played better as ensembles than those whose members worked together harmoniously. The tension stirs a reaction, creating personal and collective energy to make it happen.

Belief: It’s good to mix it up. New members bring energy and fresh ideas to a team, without them, members risk becoming complacent.

Reality: The longer members stay together as an intact group, the better they do. As unreasonable as this may seem, the research evidence is unambiguous. Whether it is a rugby team or a fire brigade unit, teams that stay together longer play together better. New talent can be disruptive.

Research into the achievement of Michelin stars by top-notch restaurant kitchens illustrate this. Chefs of all ranks require a number of months to fully become in tune with the workflow, menu, layout and systems in a new kitchen. In addition to the more formal, structured aspects of working in the kitchen, they must also work to find their place within the team, to prove themselves and become a productive member of the unit.

High turnover means that many kitchens are being held back as their team never fully matures to a point of achieving their optimal results and an intuitive collaboration that top performance requires achieving the Michelin star rating.

Belief: Bigger is better, we need more people on our team to achieve growth.

Reality: Excessive size is one of the most common impediments to effective collaboration. The larger the group, the higher the likelihood of loafing and free riding, and the more effort it takes to keep members’ activities coordinated. Small teams are more efficient, the sense of camaraderie and team spirit of a tightly-knit team can often leverage a greater degree of output – it’s the David v Goliath situation, and research shows the Davids win in 29% of situations when facing a Goliath who has ten-times the scale of resources – underdogs win more often than you think because of the collaborative spirit and energy.

Belief: Face-to-face interaction is passé, technology makes us just as productive.

Reality: Teams working remotely are at a considerable disadvantage. There really are benefits to sizing up your teammates face-to-face. Organisations that rely heavily on virtual or distributed teams have found that it is well worth the effort, time and cost to get members together when the team is launched, again around the midpoint of the team’s work, and yet again when the work has been completed for shared reflection and learning.

Belief: It all depends on the leader.

Reality: The hands-on activities of leaders do make a difference, but the most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves. Research suggests that condition-creating accounts for about 60% of the variation in how well a team eventually performs; that the quality of the team launch accounts for another 30%; and that real-time coaching accounts for only about 10%. Leaders are important in collaborative work, but not in the ways we usually think.

Belief: Teamwork is serendipity.

Reality: The best leaders provide a clear statement of what the team’s goals are, and they make sure that the team has the resources and support needed to succeed.

Structured goals and adequate support are lacking in the majority of teams. Non-financials goals are often not communicated clearly and newly recruited managers are expected to take up the job and work towards accomplishing positive results for today, without being given any structured idea as to what the future goals are with any real clarity, and yet at the same time provide their team with a strong sense of direction. Teamwork just doesn’t happen, teams need to know which direction they’re heading.

Collaboration cannot be deployed; it must be embraced, an although collaboration is about decentralising, it has to start at the top.

Watching the footage and listening to interviews and narrative from Tokyo, four principles stood out for me as being at the heart of their successful collaboration:

Appreciation First and foremost collaboration requires a mutual appreciation of each other’s abilities, skills, knowledge and ideas – a sense that none of us are as smart as all of us. People who value and appreciate what others have to say naturally gravitate towards each other and are key attributes for team building. There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.

Trust is built on appreciation. It’s easier to trust someone who appreciates us than vice versa. Trust from leaders means people will go that extra mile to challenge their thinking and incorporate the learning. Trust from below keeps the wheels spinning, and trust between individuals ensures an efficient engine.

Commitment is about a sense among individuals that the commitment of one to doing what it takes to deliver the project will be matched by the other. It triggers spontaneous action, enhancing creativity, motivation and ultimately innovation. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. It was commitment to the team effort and ignoring the personal glory that stood out for the winning team in Japan.

Recognition Altruism is essential for collaboration. It is not the driving force, but it is a key lubricant and nothing kills altruism quicker than failing to give recognition to those who made a difference. Recognise all the people who were pivotal to making something happen, they are the connectors who extend a hand beyond departmental walls, divisional barriers and bring things to life. If we don’t recognise their achievement the bonds weaken over time.

What I saw from the Hakone Ekiden were the essential characteristics for building a culture of ownership that creates, sustains and builds unity and collaboration in a successful startup. The bottom line for me is that collaboration is hard. Its success depends on making the work more important than any one individual. It asks us to find personal satisfaction in the joint effort. But, all hands on deck, collaborative efforts produce some pretty amazing results.

What makes a collaborative team?

Today sees the 48th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, where Alf Ramsey’s England won a great match 4-2 after extra-time against West Germany. The scorers were England 4 (Hurst 18, 101, 120; Peters 78) West Germany 2 (Haller 12, Weber 90).

This is the day we’ve all been waiting for says Kenneth Wolstenholme at the start of the BBC match commentary. Saturday 30 July 1966. Match day. The lads are there in a fidgeting line in the gloom of the tunnel, behind Sir Alf, waiting to come out. Four of them are bouncing balls whilst the others are staring ahead, getting into the space.

England is in cherry red shirts, full sleeved with a simple round neck, plain, no logos or adverts. A modest football kit that today resonates with emotion. The Germans are in crisp white shirts with black trim and black shorts.

The English team comes out of the tunnel into the roaring light of pandemonium English support, rattles and klaxon horns. The weather forecast said ‘sunny periods and showers, becoming dry later’.

The Queen takes to the Royal Box in time for the national anthem, the lyrics of which promise her the moon on a stick. She’s wearing an ostentatious hat, which matches her handbag. What’s in the bag? Programme and pie, I’d imagine. Perchance some toffees. Next to her is FIFA president Stanley Rous, presumably holding Her Majesty’s Bovril.

The Royal Marine band play a few tunes, then the German anthem, like the British one before it, is met with a silent and thorough respect that speaks volumes for the Sixties football fan. No need to be opening old sores 21 years down the line; there’s hope for us all yet. Then, as the last notes fade out, a roar of anticipatory noise. Bedlam, bedlam, bedlam. What an atmosphere.

Moore and Seeler, the captains, shake hands and exchange plaques and pennants. Bobby wins the toss and elects to defend the goal England has picked for the warm up. The spare balls are kicked away, and the two teams line up to go.

The Germans looked the more dangerous in the opening minutes, Haller and Held leading menacing sorties and Seeler using his head to good advantage. Haller shoots West Germany into a 12th minute lead following Wilson’s misdirected header. He thought scoring the opening goal entitled him to keep the match ball – that was the custom in German football – but there was someone else who wanted that ball too.

England, behind for the first time in the tournament, equalised six minutes later. Hurst positioned himself perfectly to head home Moore’s quick free-kick. The German defence gave little away in the second period and only 12 minutes remained when Peters scored after Hurst’s centre had struck a defender and looped invitingly into the air. From that range Peters could hardly miss.

As England hung on for the final whistle, Jackie Charlton was adjudged, harshly, to have fouled on the edge of the box. The free-kick, blasted at the wall by Emmerich, appeared to strike Schnellinger’s hand before rolling on for Weber to shoot, almost in slow motion, past Banks’ desperate lunge. Gutted. 2-2.

Alf Ramsey’s speech at full-time  – You’ve won the World Cup once, now, go and win it againwas akin to Henry V at Agincourt. England looked fitter and fresher in extra time, continuing to play with confidence and composure. Hurst scored with a drive on the turn, which hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line with Tilkowski, the flamboyant German keeper, well beaten.

The goal was disputed by the Germans – and still is. The Swiss referee, Gottfried Dienst, asked the nearer linesman Mr. Bakhramov from the USSR (what is now Azerbaijan), and between them they agreed that it was a goal. Of course it was.

German heads dropped as they lost their concentration, such that with the last kick of the match, Hurst completed a personal triumph by scoring with a firm left-footer, cheeks sucked in as he lashed the ball forward. Proper goal. Apparently some of the crowd were on the pitch. Geoff, now Sir Geoff, remains the only player to have notched a hat-trick in a World Cup Final, as I’m sure you know. And he got to keep the match ball. Not bad for a bloke from Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester.

A day to remember, even if like me, it’s from videos and news cuttings. England lined up: Banks, Cohen, Wilson, Stiles, Charlton (J), Moore, Ball, Charlton (R), Hurst, Peters, Hunt.

I’ve watched the video of this match and had daydreams. It’s come to my aid on sleepless nights. My daydream. We are ten minutes into the second half and England is 1-2 down. A worried looking Ramsey is on the touchline about to make a substitution (of course, this wasn’t in the rules in 1966).

He is going to take Hurst off, strangely off his game, and bring on this tall, inelegant, somewhat clumsy, more suited to rugby, substitute player. Alf is telling this player what to do. And he is me. I go on and generate a 4-2 victory with the greatest thirty-five minutes of centre-forward play anyone has ever seen. We can all dream.

Of course, since 1966 we’ve not had much success, highlight for me was the 2002 World Cup. Recall England manager Phil Cope suffered a heart attack during qualification and had to be replaced by Mike Bassett.  Needing to beat Slovenia in the final qualifier to make it to Brazil, we only managed a draw, but a shock win by Luxembourg over Holland meant we went through on goal difference.

In the balmy summer, I recall a difficult group stage as ever and we were on the verge of heading home after a goalless draw with unfancied Egypt before losing to Mexico. Who remembers Basset’s press conference where he mixed flaming sambucas with anti-depressants? As the gathered press baited Basset, expecting him to resign, Basset recites If by Rudyard Kipling followed by: England will be playing 4-4-fucking-2 and storms out.  Of course we lost in the semi-finals to Brazil, but we had regained our pride.

We can all dream about playing for a winning team, getting the results and enjoying the success. But what qualities do you see in that 1966 England team that you can learn from? When tackling a major initiative like an acquisition or new IT systems development, companies rely on large, diverse teams of specialists to get the job done. These teams often are convened quickly to meet an urgent need and sometimes work together virtually, collaborating online.

Appointing such a team is frequently the only way to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to pull off many of the complex tasks businesses face today. When the BBC covers the World Cup, for instance, it gathers a large team of researchers, writers, producers, cameramen, and technicians, many of whom have not met before the project. These specialists work together under the high pressure of a live environment, with just one chance to record the action.

Recent research into team behaviour reveals an interesting paradox: although teams that are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done. To put it another way, the qualities required for success are the same qualities that undermine success.

So how can we strengthen an organisation’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks to maximise the effectiveness of large, diverse teams, while minimising the disadvantages posed by their structure, composition and individuality? Research by Gratton & Erickson (2007), and Newton (2014) offers some insight into how to maximise collaborative team performance.

Invest in enabling collaborative relationship practices Leaders can encourage collaborative behaviour by making highly visible investments in facilities with open floor plans and shared spaces specifically designed to foster communication that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration.

Modeling collaborative behaviour At companies where the leadership team demonstrates highly collaborative behavior themselves, teams collaborate well. Leading a networked, connected culture across traditional organisation barriers from the top breaks down the silos.

Get everyone on the same page By enabling a ‘we’re all in this together’ leadership ethos, people feel a sense of community and shared purpose, and they are more comfortable reaching out to others and more likely to share knowledge.

Assigning team leaders that are both task and relationship oriented The debate has traditionally focused on whether a task or a relationship orientation creates better leadership, but in fact both are key to successfully leading a team and fostering collaboration.

Building on heritage relationships When too many team members are strangers, people may be reluctant to share knowledge. The best practice is to put at least a few people who know one another on the team. Research shows that if more than 40% of a team are new to each other, team effectiveness suffers.

Understanding role clarity and task ambiguity Cooperation increases when the roles of individual team members are sharply defined yet the team is given latitude on how to achieve the task. Collaboration and team composition needs to reflect the desired outcomes – a jazz ensemble, a fire brigade unit and an international sports team each has different dynamics, roles and pulse.

Set expectations Everyone on the team needs to know what they have to do and when they have to do it by. Leaders need to connect and align the individual expectations with the shared expectations of the team.

Transparency If something isn’t going right, you need to be upfront with it. The more you hold back the more it will impede collaboration between the team. People love transparency because it makes them feel like they are part of an honest team.

Being an agent and a target of influence We spend a lot of time in leadership development helping leaders to have greater influence. Of equal importance when it comes to collaborative leadership, is being prepared to be a target of others’ influence. This requires openness to alternative ideas, inquisitiveness to understand the foundation of others’ arguments and recognition of the value the other party has and therefore can add to the collaborative venture.

We need to develop and disseminate an entirely new paradigm and practice of collaboration that supersedes the traditional silos that have divided enterprises internally for decades, and replace it with connected networks of partnerships working together to create a genuine collaboration. Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really, everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.

Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to work, but also to learn. Learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy. Life is not a solo act, it’s a huge collaboration and we all need to assemble around us the people who can make a difference for each other.

So, come 3 o’clock today, just pause for a moment and reflect back on ’66. England, an outstanding team of individuals – not a team of outstanding individuals – everyone played their part, and everyone was over the moon, a genuine collaborative effort. As Shakespeare said ‘we few, we happy few, we band of brothers’.