The sports industry, like so much of the economy, is going through a “perfect storm” of trends that promise to upend its operations in the next decade.
For Christian Frei, founder and chief technology officer of leadership and coaching consultancy 934 Live, that should be enough to prompt anyone to reflect on their attitude to change.
The years ahead, Frei suggested, will be defined by “social mega-trends”, the “disruption of business models” and a rapid generational transition. Those effects are accelerating, “massively impacting” the prospects of businesses.
Leaders must be prepared to be agile in the face of that upheaval. “It’s not necessarily innovation taking the past and making it digital,” he said, “and hoping that will be enough for the future.”
Examples of companies riding new trends are everywhere. Footwear manufacturer Toms has shown that growth can be stimulated through purpose. Mobile game Pokemon Go has moved physical audiences through digital activity, and Apple has turned its retail stores into a brand experience.
All of these factors are also weighing on sport, and Frei believes that no organisation can be comfortable with the status quo at the expense of better ideas. “Challenging yourself,” he said, “is way better than your competitors challenging you.”
Frei recommends sustaining that outlook by enabling talent and encouraging internal regeneration. “The best thing you can do is grow the future,” he added, “and make yourself redundant.”
That viewpoint was echoed by Mladen Petric, the former Croatian international footballer who is now a 934 talent faculty coach.
“I had nine coaches in four years in Hamburg,” he recalled, “so I have seen a lot of good coaches and I have seen a lot of horrible coaches.”
The best of those, he said, was his national team manager Slaven Bilic. Remembering how Bilic alleviated tension in the dressing room before a landmark win over England at Wembley Stadium in 2007, Petric outlined what made for such effective leadership.
“Today, as a coach, you have to have some empathy,” he said.
Strong leaders, added 934 executive coach and chief coaching officer Helen Duguid, must also display open-mindedness in other ways.
“The very best leaders I know and have worked with,” said the former Microsoft executive, “are today’s learners.”
Duguid challenges leaders to think about the single positive change they would make in their organisation, if they could. She also suggested that they should be asking not just how they run their business, but about their reasons for being in charge.
“Why should anyone be led by you?” she said, repeating a question that often “stops people in their tracks”.
The work of 934, she continued, is “steeped in positive neuroscience and psychology”. She said that people who can identify their strengths and build on them will be happier, as well as more productive in the face of change.