Are some football managers experts in collaboration?
I love football. I love Arsenal lead by the enigmatic, wily Frenchman Arsene Wenger, who said many years ago, "The intelligent player realises the team is the real star". And those of you who follow football around the world know that despite a long trophy drought, most football fans, commentators and pundits agree that Arsenal plays the most attractive form of football in the English Premier League. In fact, very much on par with with Barcelona, who tend to buy a lot of Arsenal players.
Now there's some research to support this pearl of wisdom but first some background.
One of the key discoveries so far of Complexity Theory is that co-operative processes in general seem far more likely to survive than isolated, rampantly selfish entities. This moves successful evolution away from the original 'principle of natural selection' to a more holistic, symbiotic view of adaptability, wherein survival is a group or team effort.
Scientific American recently published research suggesting there is a Surprising Problem with Too Much Talent.
"Researchers looked at three sports: basketball, soccer, and baseball. In each sport, they calculated both the percentage of top talent on each team and the teams’ success over several years. For both basketball and soccer, they found that top talent did in fact predict team success, but only up to a point. Furthermore, there was not simply a point of diminishing returns with respect to top talent, there was in fact a cost. Basketball and soccer teams with the greatest proportion of elite athletes performed worse than those with more moderate proportions of top level players.
Why is too much talent a bad thing? Think teamwork. In many endeavours, success requires collaborative, cooperative work towards a goal that is beyond the capability of any one individual."
The most fascinating insight is how baseball is one game where too much talent is not a problem as it does not rely on nearly as much team cooperation because it's a game where fundamentally of one player against a whole team (not unlike cricket). Read the whole thing.
If you think about it, with hindsight our social history is almost embarrassingly about collective effort, rather than individual triumph. If you're an Arsenal fan you'll know that we often say that "Arsene knows". His nickname has been 'The Professor' in the past, even though he makes the most inexplicable, often infuriating decisions about the team and his players. Has he been ahead of the game all this time? Is doing better with less the next big thing in collaboration?