WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM THE THAI SOCCER TEAM'S RESCUE
On July 18, all the 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach, were released from the hospital in Thailand after spending weeks trapped in a flooded cave. The dramatic rescue mission moved into its final phase: getting the Thai boys, their coach, and the rescuers back home.
The remarkable rescue involving hundreds of individuals, teams, NGOs and companies, along with traditional and innovative technology captured the attention of the world, and for good reason.
What set this ultimately successful mission apart was the deep cooperation. Cave experts. Experienced rescuers. Military personnel. Thais, Americans, Australians, and Brits. This international group came together around a single, formidable goal: getting a dozen boys, and their coach, who could not swim out of a mile-long cave that had been flooded by monsoon rains. This required listening, trusting, and cooperating both physically and intellectually. Even though some of the teams were trained to operate within their own team, they all had to stretch and work with new strangers to make the rescue mission a success. It couldn’t have been easy but they did it, and this mission proves that amazing things can happen across borders, nationalities, political beliefs and professions.
For many years collaboration and how to achieve it has been the focus in the agency world. The concept— with collaboration everyone is heard, more ideas are included, brain storms are productive, and better work comes from this. But is collaboration really the key?
As a creative operations consultant, and I’ve observed a range of approaches to achieve collaboration across individuals and teams, cultures, and management styles. I get to see the subtle differences in how employees contribute to a company’s success. Most frequently, I see groups that claim to “collaborate” while in fact they want nothing to do with one another. The listening and trust that was so crucial to the Thai cave rescue success is nowhere to be found, when creative and account-management teams come together to brainstorm they collaborate on the surface for the time they’re in the room, but once they exit the room it’s gone. When they’re not physically together, they go back to their own worlds.
This is why I agree with Yves Morieux, a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. In his Ted Talk he discusses the importance of cooperation. "The whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. This is not poetry, this is not philosophy—this is maths" he goes on to say "we need to create organizations that make it individually useful for individuals to cooperate." Think about that for a minute. What he has knows to be true is the importance to make it compelling for an individual to cooperate. If you want to listen to his Ted Talk see the link below. When one cooperates with a colleague it comes from a place of authenticity. It’s sincere, honest and earnest and includes collaboration but it encompasses so much more. Imagine if everyone within a company cooperated. All of the corporate politics is gone and the client’s business becomes the focus. But cooperation takes work. It has to be a top down effort. If a few people cooperate and others don’t the chain is broken and the measure of strength is on the weakest link. The lack of cooperation is why projects big and small fail and it’s the only essential ingredient that matters.
When we truly commit to cooperating with others, we learn, we value ideas, and we work together, across departments, across teams, and across levels of seniority. When we actually cooperate, nothing gets in the way of good ideas that help lead us to our ultimate mission, whether that mission is saving lives or the completion of a challenging deliverable.
My deepest gratitude goes out to the countless brave individuals who came together to rescue the 12 Thai boys and their coach. In the process, they showed us what can be achieved with authentic cooperation.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Tait 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs