INsight/ Achieving Results Together

Photo Dane Deaner at Unsplash

Photo Dane Deaner at Unsplash


Manila, 11 July 2018 — Whether in a cave, on a soccer field, or at a summit, collaboration is key to getting results. What are we learning?

Three Arenas

The world watched, in a trance, how twelve young boys and their soccer coach were rescued after surviving for weeks in a dark, treacherous cave that was threatened with flooding by heavy monsoon rains.

No one was left in any doubt how the rescue was turned from mission impossible to mission possible.

A large international team of rescuers from Thailand and countries around the world worked together day and night to make it happen, supported by an army of volunteers who had come from all across Thailand to help out in whatever way they could. 

At the same time, in stadiums across Russia, football teams from countries around the world gave it all they had to achieve glory as they contested the World Cup. Every moment mattered as the teams fought match by match and round by round.

Depending on the results of play, the teams enjoyed jubilation or savored defeat, but not before collaborating in the best way they could. 

High Stakes

Meanwhile, the stakes were also high in summits as political leaders battled to resolve differences and find new ways forward, both within their cabinet teams and with other global leaders, with both collaboration and the lack of it being on public display.

A remarkable week, with more outcomes to be produced in the next few days. So what can we learn about collaboration from what we have seen?

The success of the young soccer team's rescue from the cave in Thailand offers many lessons. Taking a look at the massive, unprecedented collaboration effort, we could see that there were many styles coming into play. We can decode these styles with the help of the Work In All Colors method. 

Combining Leadership Styles

First, there was the universal public outpouring of love and care (Green), with the outspoken intention to bring the whole team home safely and not leave anyone of the boys behind. Everyone's effort helped, especially those of the many volunteers.

The large number of rescuers had to come together and get to know each other first (Green) to become a strong team and meet the very challenging conditions to bring out the boys when time was scarce. The project's goal was clear, time was short, and resources limited. An extraordinary effort was required from the team (Orange). 

Meanwhile, a necessary command structure was established, and procedures were being designed on the spot with great care to be prepared for any eventuality, with diligent execution (Blue). 

Finding the right solutions for the rescue to be implemented turned out to be a learning journey, as it had never been done before. The team members gave themselves sufficient space to experience and benefit from this learning journey, by listening to each other without being limited by preconceived ideas (Yellow). 

Other worldviews and leadership styles were also apparent during the rescue process, including the drawing of comfort from a sense of pride and community, expressed by symbols and rituals such as monks praying and the Seal cry of Hooyah that reverberated through social media around the world.

The occasional expressions of a grandstanding alpha leadership style were also observed (Red), soon to be overtaken again by the humbleness of responsible leaders who cut the through complexity with calm and wise decisions that were warmly appreciated by rescuers and the public (Turquoise).  

Three Collaboration Lessons

Beyond the lessons offered by the combination of different leadership styles on display, three other lessons on collaboration also stand out from the team's heroic rescue effort. 

First, the focus on action rather than words. Second, the determination to achieve the rescue mission's goal against all the odds. And third, the willingness by all concerned to share the ownership for the results. 

Now we can only hope that the political leaders at their summits will remember to look beyond the success of the rescue mission in Thailand and Russia's hosting of the World Cup, and their own immediate objectives, to rediscover strategies that will allow them to collaborate more effectively. The Thai cave rescue offers valuable lessons on how this can be done.

Our world needs more collaboration, from the highest levels down to teams and local communities. The global outpouring of support for the young football team in Thailand made us remember that collaboration is not mission impossible, but mission possible, when we are willing to learn.