Takeaway: I was supposed to learn life lessons by participation in “sportsball” at school. Looking back, everything I learned was wrong for the modern era.
So you played sportsball because the school education systems tells you that its good for your education.
Sportsball is generic term for whatever team sport you played at school – football, hockey, netball, soccer.
What I Learned From Sportsball
Lets consider what I learned from playing sports ball during my high school years:
- Every player has a position.
- They must not move out of that position.
- You should not develop skills to play in other positions.
- Winning or losing didn’t have consequences. “Its playing the game that counts”
- Winning or losing is clearly defined and happens at a specific point.
- You win or lose every week when the season is on. There are no consequences to losing or winning.
- A sportsball season only lasts for 16-20 weeks of a year.
- Being proficient at sportsball was simple enough, just practice a lot with a little bit of coaching.
- Good leadership is essential for a team of narrowly focussed experts.
Now consider how relevant those skills are for silo-operations in ITIL-compliant workforce. Striking, frightening even that most companies are organised like football team or military unit.
Real life isn’t Like Sportsball
Here is what I learned being an IT Manager/Leader in the Real World.
- You should be able operate in any position. (full stack engineering, promotion)
- You should change positions and teams, as often as possible.
- You should develop skills to work in any position.
- Win/Lose is poorly defined and hard to measure.
- Winning or losing has consequences. (Your job, your bonus, your promotion).
- You need to complete tasks every week.
- You have to complete work all year.
- Being proficient at technology working requires more than just doing. Work planning, constant learning, personal strategy, empathy and deliberate intention.
- Leadership has limited impact on the success or failure of IT teams.
Sportsball Was Useful
There was a time when playing a sports ball was a useful teaching activity, especially when training a blue collar workforce to work in the early industrial economy of the 18th century that was dominated by repetitive, moderate skill jobs like factory workers and trades but farm workers were unable to operate complex machinery.
Today, most sportsball participants are admirable for the ability to dedicate themselves to a limited set of tasks like diet and exercise under supervision of experts and their willingness to gamble their lives on a narrow and specific task. Thats not a life plan for normal people.
Of course there are common elements between old style and modern teams but when I wrote this post, I realised how few there were.
- The most important factor in team performance determined by co-operation or integration (not skill or leadership)
- Results (prizes) are awarded to the team not the person.
The EtherealMind View
The transitions from “sports ball team” organisation to a modern team is difficult. Self-configuring, self-organising and self-awareness are not remotely part of sportsball participation.
I doubt most leaders have enough self-awareness to comprehend that they are following their childhood programming. Equally, team members have been trained to operate in “position” and expect other team members to do their jobs “play their position”.
Maybe thats why there are relatively fewer sports jock in technology. IT teams simply aren’t compatible with their education.
I did some research into the history of education a few years back as I was thinking about training courses, content, pedagogy and the mechanics of learning. The “education system” of today was designed in 18th century Britain because second wave of industrialisation during the Industrial Revolution needed skilled workers for the factories to operate machines. Farm workers were hard & time consuming to re-train.
Sports participation was mainly about three things
- Military preparation by building soldierly discipline.
- Victorian concepts of healthy exercise
- Keeping children occupied.
Those early “benefactors” setup schools to train children as the next generation of workers. Sometime later, it was realised that education had other benefits and the social movements supported by various Christian religions began to help the poor. After that, education runs a complex, convoluted path