Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Howzat?! Knowledge and Emergence in Cricket

Anyone that knows me knows that I love the game of Cricket . One of its great fascinations, in particular Test Cricket, is its complexity and so the temptation to find parallels between the game and business is very tempting. But its easy to get carried away with this and to address every business issue with a cricketing metaphor. The current brouhaha around allegations of corrupt practice and spot betting is a case in point. It would be entirely possible to find myriad opportunities to spark a discussion about issues like ethics and CSR, poor regulation by moribund money centred administrators, failure to maintain boundaries – you can see where this might go. The problem with this is that too often the person drawing the parallel can be drawn into extending the similarity to a point where the comparison between sport and business is unsustainable and so meaningless.

But both business and sport, in this case cricket, are it seems to me subject to certain common principles and phenomenon because both involve concern human behaviour and cognition. For example it has been possible for me to apply KM techniques in top level sport – notably rugby - and use some of those same principles back in a business environment. IF we approach it from the point of view of those principles there might be something of value to reflect on. So in that spirit I wanted to just identify two things that struck me as interesting without getting into how the third umpire might be applied in the financial sector.

Firstly I was struck by the demonstration of the necessity and power of human intervention for knowledge disclosure. Let me explain. I am a committed listener to the BBC's Test Match Special . For those that don't know this is a radio commentary of five day test matches. It sounds incredible to the uninitiated but believe me it is not only possible to do but it is absolutely compulsive listening. The format is that the commentator covers the action – such as it is – whilst having a more speculative, ruminative and forensic conversation about the game with an accompanying “expert summariser”. There is also a statistician on hand as well. The result can be funny, thoughtful, provocative even infuriating but always entertaining. The amount of cricketing insight and experience on display at this point is formidable and as an exercise in the disclosure of knowledge of the game it is almost without comparison. So it was fascinating that when the controversial no-balls were actually bowled this team immediately felt something was not quite right in what was a wonderful demonstration of a knowledge disclosure points (KDP). Of course they made no accusations but there was an unease about what had happened based on the evaluation of a complex event by the Mk1 brain and we could, if we so wished use Dave Snowden's excellent ASHEN framework to perhaps better understand how that assessment was done. But to me it was just another example of how human cognition is the best judge of action and risk in a complex environment.

The second interesting point of observation for me – particularly so in an age of Social Media - was the role of the players – past and present – and the supporters in forcing some action. The emergent outrage shown by these parties, expressed typically through quick media distribution, and the aggregate effect of that has already forced some action form a range of groups, politicians administrators etc. who had up to that point begun to fall back on the old “head in sand approach” of “No comment”, “the matter is in police hands”, “cant interfere” etc.

So whilst I am not saying business is cricket or vice versa I am saying we are all subject to similar forces and opportunities that can, if managed and harnessed correctly, can be very beneficial.

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