There was an interesting article in the Economist this week bemoaning the lack of flair amongst leading managers, citing several British bosses as good examples of dour leaders with little creativity or originality, and it got me thinking whether this is somehow a British trait.
This weekend was also a big one for sport, with the English team in action on the football, rugby and cricket fields. The script was similar in each, the doughty English outplayed by their technically superior opponents. The English football team have long played a brand of football that rarely quickens the pulse and against Brazil it was men against boys. In the rugby league the English team played manfully for the first 50 minutes before the inevitable Australian onslaught came and the thrashing duly delivered. The cricket team were equally crushed in todays 20/20 game against South Africa with few Englishmen showing any of the flair and verve on display by the South Africans. The rugby union team did at least manage a victory against Argentina but again the display lacked any flair or imagination with the team relying, as seems to be the case so often, on dull ten man rugby.
Amongst the various post mortems of these failures many possible explanations were given, but by far the most common was an overwhelming fear of failure, a fear of trying something different only to be ridiculed should it go wrong. And I wonder if its a part of the British spirit? Americans have the ‘American dream’ that seems to bestow a can do spirit amongst its people. Australians also seem to lack any of the insecurities that inflict us Brits.
It seems the same in the business world. I recently read a book about the incredible startup culture in Israel. I struggle to see anything remotely similar in Britain. Where are all the startups? Where are the people putting things on the line to craft something new and original? It’s surely not for a lack of brains or talent. Our universities are amongst the finest in the world yet there seems an almost embarrassment about success, a disdain for those that want to make the most of their lives.
Is it a forlorn hope that Britain unleashes the creativity within or are we a lost cause?