As the England football team plays their first World Cup games, the importance of team and high performance is topical this week.
We’re big fans of applying learnings from sport to business (and vice versa). When a team comes under some pressure, the strength of the relationships and how well members can support each other when feeling vulnerable is an important ingredient in high performance.
Applied originally in another sporting context (cycling), is the work of Steve Peters and his Chimp Paradox theory. This proposes that our brains are governed by 3 elements. A computer that is running the system, our thinking/logical brain (you) and our emotional brain (your chimp).
Our ‘chimps’ are powerful, fuelling anxiety and worry and work more quickly than our logical brains – hence they can hijack the computer and drive our behaviour. The good news is that we can, with practice, learn to manage our chimps.
Not only does understanding your own chimp help you develop strategies for managing it, but sharing ‘chimps’ within a team is a powerful way for a team to learn how they can support each other. Exploring chimps through naming and drawing them typically provokes laughter along the way too!
I’d love to know if Gareth Southgate had an initial ‘chimp’ reaction to his running fall and resulting dislocated shoulder. He was definitely coming from logic with his quote “It is better this is me than one of the players.” I’ll be looking out for player’s ‘chimps’ as the tournament proceeds (let’s hope there are a good few for England – games rather than chimps!).
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