“This is not a defeat. This is a nation’s pride and soul being destroyed,” remarked a senior Washington based news correspondent on Brazil’s humiliating 1-7 loss to Germany in the first semi final of FIFA World Cup 2014.

At ground zero, Luiz Carlos, a 52-year-old cook, told Bloomberg in Rio: “Brazil will never be able to erase that shame”.

This after the country spent more than USD 10bn to host the tournament. But even before the semi final had reached the half-way mark, the joy of reaching that far in the home championship had given way to jeers at the home team and President Dilma Rousseff.

It would be safe to assume that lessons would have been learnt by the Brazilian football officials and the hosting committee.

I believe that there are some very pertinent lessons to be learnt by businesses too:

  1. Structural Efficiency is a Must – Inspirationalindividuals can’t hide structural deficiencies. The current Brazilian team depended heavily upon Thiago Silva at the back and Neymar at front. There were gaps all around them, in all games. It’s just it was the team’s (and the nation’s) destiny for those to be brutally exposed when the stakes were really at the peak. Solitary leadership inspires, but you need a team to execute a vision.
  2. Play to your strength – Brazil was never known for its defence, but what hurt them was the goal scorers became suddenly unknown too. In the past they could always score at least one more than what they conceded. Unfortunately, the current Brazilian coach went for caution – thereby allowing the opposition the luxury to play in Brazil’s weakest domain. On the other hand, plenty more flair and firepower would’ve always kept the opposition on their heels.
  3. Change management is largely risk driven and entirely time driven – Brazil had let in five goals by the 29th minute. But the coach didn’t introduce the first change till the 45th minute. Some may even argue what was the necessity to wait till the fifth goal – since it was clear by that time that many on the pitch had proved to be ineffectual beyond redemption in the first 15 minutes or so itself. A faulty strategy or a faulty product (out in the market) has to be rectified in time, and not when “it is high time”.
  4. Emotions don’t always bring business – Crying at the rendition of the national anthem and wearing support caps for your injured star player is all fine, but the passion in itself doesn’t play the game. Whether it is nationalism (Air India, Ambassador, Maruti etc) or celebrity appeal (Neymar’s emotional video before the match), every emotion is secondary to product performance.
  5. Honest intent helps longer patron support – No player covered himself in glory in the match. Superstar David Luiz, who captained the team in the match, was especially appalling – playing pivotal, direct role in letting at least two of the seven goals. However, the crowd stretched their lungs to boo Fred the most. It is not a question of pitting a normal person against a nation’s heartthrob, but an illustration of people overlooking mistakes for genuine passion. Fred barely seemed to clock any miles in any of the matches.

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