In Finland, there is a phrase– dating back hundreds of years– which refers to extraordinary determination, courage, and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. It’s called Sisu. In other countries, since there is not a translation of the word, Sisu might be referred to as “having grit.” And the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team was full of grit.
Head Coach Herb Brooks knew it would take a complete team filled with passion and grit to defeat the far superior USSR team. Two weeks prior to the game in Lake Placid in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden, the Americans were soundly beaten 13-1 by the Russians. After that humbling ass beating Brooks went to work. His practices emphasized communication, toughness, conditioning and playing unselfishly. Brooks was willing to forgo natural talent for hard work and grit. He knew that no matter how much talent his team possessed, it would never be as talented as the Russians. Brooks knew the Gold medal was not obtainable only with talent, he needed a fresh approach, a different path. Therefore, Brook’s devised a new way to compete and give himself an advantage over the mighty Russians. He thought divergently, not creatively.
Most coaches/leaders during a problematic situation, facing a challenging opponent, believe they must put on their creative hat and find the solution when in reality the situation calls for a divergent cap. Being creative means: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Being divergent means: tending to be different or develop in different directions. The difference? Divergent thinkers take a fresh approach to an old idea. Meanwhile, the creative thinker imagines and new way. Let’s face it in most sports there are no new ways. In chess, the pieces have moved in the same direction for centuries, yet chess masters find divergent ways to play.
Stop thinking you must be creative to discover a new path. Examine your teaching and leadership methods, and find a divergent way to do it better. Just like Herb Brooks did.
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