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So why did England fail so impressively..?

Posted: July 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Ads, TED Talks | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

WC 2010: Wayne Rooney - England  - Slovenia (Getty Images)

One week on and its been a busy week of argumentation and exposition over England’s doomed journey in South Africa, culminating in our comprehensive spanking from Germany.  For a read, check out the Guardian‘s article on the travesty.

Of course, I’m absolutely gutted (as always). I’ve experienced England’s failure for most of my formative years but I find this year to be particularly interesting. Whilst no football statistician, I do know that on paper we have some pretty good players – but as a team something just didn’t work together. The performance as a whole didn’t tally up with the performance of the individuals and in some sadly perverse way, they played even worse. What we would have wanted was to see some teamwork, some play that was greater than the sum of its parts…in other words, some magic. But magical play isn’t something you can conjure at will unfortunately, it’s somewhat more elusive than that. But some thinking about networks might provide some insight..

Undercurrent strategist Mike Arauz discusses how the success of advertising agencies depends on both their ability to tell stories AND their ability to be create tricks, making a great analogy to magic – read here. In short, you can be an agency that does great tricks or you could be an agency that is particularly adept at story telling but those elements alone will not precipitate a good (and ultimately successful) advertising agency. I really like this idea that a central outcome can only ever be created by two seperate processes and it’s something we can use as a framework on pretty much everything.

Take music for example. I’m a music producer. I use computers and synthesisers to produce music and it is often a very technical process. But after a while of producing something happens that is kind of hard to describe. After a while I no longer hear the musical elements, I no longer hear the percussion, I no longer hear a vocal line…I hear a song. The elements combined in the right way create something that is both unexpected, quite random and entirely dependant on its component processes  - it is in essence, magical. The third element if you’d call it that. And something sadly we didn’t get to see in England’s performance.

I read a great book recently –  Connected :  Amazing power of social networks and how they shape our lives. If you find networks interesting then you should definitely have a read. It’s not entirely popular science tripe – they’ve gone in great depth to scientifically model how networks are structured, how they transfer ‘contagion’ and what the implications are for small groups and larger societies. I need to dig back into it a little more but it’s fascinating – essentially a large part of who you are is not mutually because of you and your actions, you are who you are because of everyone else in your network. Strikes a very similar chord with a campaign for Orange I worked on a few years ago – they were quite ahead of the game it seems.

Nicholas Christakis spoke earlier this year at a TED conference – he covers some of the major points in his book so if you don’t have time to read, have a listen here

Connected: Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives