Capturing knowledge is key to success – Sir Clive Woodward

Capturing knowledge is key to success – Sir Clive Woodward

 Sir Clive Woodward at CBI 2013

Teams who assume they have all the knowledge are likely to only come second in the race for global success – whether in sport or business – Sir Clive Woodward told CBI Annual Conference.

Sir Clive, the coach of the 2003 World Cup-winning England rugby team and former director of sport at the British Olympic Association, said winning teams were those that became best at capturing and processing knowledge and then applying it in practice.

“The fundamental reason why there has been a step change is that people running those sports really understand how to build, capture and share knowledge,” he said.

He explained that the England rugby coaching team worked together to build up “books” of knowledge about distinct aspects of the game based on videos, media articles and other inputs. This enabled them to identify “winning moves” and “winning practices”.

“Knowledge is everything,” Sir Clive said. “You can only do that if you have a process where your whole team study it to find out what they need to do. Once you assume you know it all you’ll come second.

“It is amazing how many business people I talk to can tell me what they do but not why they do it.” He said that advances in technology had made it easier to capture and process the relevant knowledge.

He said an important lesson that applied to business as much as sport was that there needed to be a genuine engagement between coaches or managers and the team players.

Referring to the 29 gold medal winners at the 2012 Olympics, Sir Clive said: “The knowledge of what they do and they way they go about it is quite amazing but no different from that of any top business person.”

Sir Clive said a shared challenge for business managers and sports coaches was how to avoid losing that pool of captured knowledge when key people retired or move on. “They key thing is what happens to that knowledge,” he said. “You need to have a process to capture it.”

“People do move on and you need to have a process so that can capture [the knowledge],” he said, pointing out that only three of key people involved in the GB Olympic team were likely to be at the Rio games.

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