Gotta Be Aggressive – Business Lessons from the World of Soccer

“Who risks, may lose, but who doesn’t risk will not win…”

This is one of the quotes of Kazimierz Gorski, the world’s best soccer coach in 1970’s.  He took a Polish national soccer team from nowhere to becoming, arguably, the best team in the world by 1974 (Gold Medal in Olympic Games in 1972 and 3rd place in 1974 World Cup, after a loss to West Germany that Poland most likely would have won if the game had not been played on a flooded field). So, how did he do it?

Luck always plays a part but there were some key things that proved immensely effective. First, he was ruthless in selecting and adding new players.  For example, faced with a loss of key striker and team’s captain in 1973, he brought on board two new players who became 1st and 2nd top scorers in the 1974 World Cup. He built the team spirit that was based on individual performance: there was no place for slackers and new blood kept the team’s motivation high. Then, he tailored the team’s strategy to capitalize on strengths of his players: vary fast offense and defense throughout the field. Way ahead of his time, he was emphasizing ball possession, observing casually that ‘if we keep the ball, they can’t score’.

There are business lessons that one can draw from his success: ruthless focus on having ‘A’ players on the team, additions of new talent, strategy that capitalizes on strength of the team, and innovative tactics. But first and foremost, success involves taking on risks. Calculated risks. You can’t win otherwise…As Gorski said, “Who risks, may lose, but who doesn’t risk will not win…”