Recently I had the honour of playing as goalkeeper for a team in the 2018 ASEAN Futsal Club Championship in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where we placed second, the best result of an Australian team ever in that tournament. This was an incredible result for a completely amateur side competing against professional teams from more developed futsal nations. Without dismissing the group of highly talented and driven players I had the pleasure of playing with, this result, in part, was due to our coach.

I have played in numerous elite teams, and it becomes quite evident when a coach takes a different teaching style. I realised that many of the concepts that he taught us could also be applied to my professional life, and in particular, designing business intelligence (BI) systems.

Our training program was not focused on technical skills – our training sessions were more geared towards tactical movements and players were allowed the creativity to do something with the ball

‘I don’t care if you make a technical error’

In many elite teams, minimising technical errors (for example, a bad pass, losing the ball to the opposition, missing a tackle, and on) is a key focus, particularly when coaching defensive principles. The reason for this is pretty simple: more technical errors means more goals conceded, which means less chance of winning. While this seems intuitive, we forget that focusing too strongly on technical issues comes at a cost.

Players may make bad decisions, but technical errors are just plain old mistakes. When we punish mistakes, players lose confidence which often leads to more mistakes or poor decision making. This also means players lose creativity. They do what they are told to minimise technical errors – mistakes. But adults have a very low chance of improving their technical ability substantially, as this is developed over years of training as a child.

However, in our professional lives, we manage with the aim of minimising mistakes, because mistakes mean rework, low efficiency and drags on the business. We do not encourage creativity; we encourage process, efficiency and “doing what you are told”. Having a tolerance for mistakes is the only way to innovate in a professional setting, yet when we design BI systems we measure efficiency levels, how far away we are from budget, and how many sales we made (or did not make).