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Good artists copy; great artists steal

Jul 11, 2018 | Communication

Tonight’s match is a pretty significant moment for English football as it will be the first time that England has made it to the Semi-Final of the World Cup since 1990.

Even if you aren’t particularly bothered about football it has been nigh on impossible not to get caught up in the excitement surrounding the achievement of Gareth Southgate and his squad.

But before you start singing “Three Lions” to yourself (oops too late, it’s in your head already isn’t it?) I wanted to share with you something about Gareth Southgate that has nothing to do with waistcoats or Euro ’96 and everything to do with creative strategic thinking.

I read recently that back in February of this year, Gareth Southgate was sitting courtside at an NBA game, watching the New Orleans Pelicans face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He wanted to find out how basketball players created space around the basket.

He was doing something that many of the world’s best creative leaders do, they look outside their field for inspiration and by spotting associations or connections with unrelated fields they are able to find innovative ways of solving challenges.

Steve Jobs was a great proponent of this approach. The ground breaking visual interface of the first Macintosh was influenced massively by his interest in calligraphy and many of the stand out features of the Apple stores do not take their cues not from traditional retail design but are stolen from luxury hotel brands like Ritz-Carlton.

So why was Gareth Southgate in the Target Centre in downtown Minneapolis?

He was looking for strategic ideas that he could steal.

He knew that if he was going to come up with new ideas for set pieces such as free kicks and corners, he wasn’t going to find them watching QPR or Real Madrid.

Through his observations he was able to find analogous situations between the “same but different” worlds of basketball and football and apply them to his strategy.

The outcome?

Arguably the most successful England team in decades.

So next time you are facing a tricky challenge, don’t look at what everyone else is doing.

Seek inspiration from those outside your field and steal a page from their playbook.

You might just find the solution you are looking for.

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