Form Vs Flair: The Lions Rugby Squad Debate
20 April 2017
If you're partial to a pendulum pass or drawn to a dummy run, you might have also been caught up in the furore surrounding Warren Gatland’s selection for the British and Irish Lions 2017 rugby squad.
New Zealander Gatland selected just two Scottish players (alongside 16 English, 12 Welsh and 11 Irish) in his squad – despite this small nation clocking up impressive wins over Wales and Ireland previously and placing higher than Wales in the world rankings.
He defended his decision making, by stating that he had chosen players who were consistent in their form.
It got me thinking, could Gatland’s thinking be applied to business development? Should you pick form over flair? If there was a different manager in charge of the Lions squad would we have seen a different final 41?
He told BBC Sport: "We didn't go through the numbers. We put together a group of players in each position we felt were in contention and then we went through and individually selected those players."
Gatland rejected the likes of Finn Russell, who has proven to be a real maverick with an innovative (sometimes frustrating) style of play, in favour of tried and tested players from the rest of the British Isles. He made a strategic decision to side with steadiness.
In the business world, would you do the same? Would you play it safe and promote someone who has worked for you for ten years, been consistent in their performance but never actually delivered anything new? Or would you strike out and take the risk on someone who got off to a shaky start but continuously surprises you with new, innovative ways of doing things?
The Lions squad is facing double world champions New Zealand on home turf. It’s bound to be a hostile, high pressure environment. You would think that Gatland, in this circumstance, had absolutely nothing to lose by taking the chance on players who demonstrate a real passion and flair for the game.
It would seem that his ‘business model’, as it were, is somewhat sterile and lacking in imagination. Change and creativity is good for business: It makes you thrive, increases productivity and makes you think differently. Being risk averse and cautious will only take you so far – as the Lions squad may well find out.
Gatland also stated that, whilst he admired the Scotland team’s cohesion as a whole, there were no real ‘stand out’ individuals. This sorry assessment is pretty damning of any workplace.
There is also the issue of diversity, which is an extremely hot topic in business right now. If your workforce (or, in this case, your rugby squad) does not accurately represent your customer base, you are bound to alienate potential business. Plenty of Scottish rugby fans have already complained about the lack of national players in the squad – so are they less likely to support the team?
Recruitment is never easy. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, other times you can have a mild disaster. Perhaps if Gatland had sought more advice, or taken a different strategic approach, he might have an entirely different squad in front of him.
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Written By Allan Davidson