What if Jose Mourinho was a Chief Knowledge Officer?

José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho – how do you describe this man? To some he is a genius while to others he appears to be crazy. He is loved by many (he is truly the ‘Special One’ for most Chelsea fans) and equally hated by a lot of others (you just need to read the articles which appeared in the UK newspapers following his announcement to come back to Chelsea to understand what I mean). Despite all his eccentricities, I am a huge fan of the man. As he decided to come back to Stamford Bridge for the second term recently (Yippee….), a crazy idea struck me! I was thinking, what if Jose had chosen to become a Knowledge Management professional rather than going on to manage football clubs across Europe. What if he had decided to use ‘knowledge’ rather than ‘football’ to make him the ‘Special One’?

There is no doubt that he would have risen to the post of Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) rather quickly after learning the tricks of the trade in the first few years. Let’s explore what would have made him a unique professional.

Focus – If you have followed Mourinho’s career over the years, it is likely that you would have noticed the steely focus he instills in his teams on winning. Here is what Diego Milito stated during his tenure with Inter Milan “It’s no fluke that after a defeat, Inter gets straight back on its feet. That’s all thanks to Mourinho.” And this one is a Jose special: “I love players who love to win. They not only win in 90 minutes, but every day, every training session, in every moment of their lives”. It could be safely assumed that in his avatar of a CKO he would have demanded his team members to believe passionately in the vision of the team and go all out for it. Failing to achieve the goals would not even have been an option. Sounds like a key ingredient for success, isn’t it?

Bonding – I used to work with a colleague whose favourite quote was ‘You are as good as your team’. I am not sure whether he ever followed the fortunes of Mourinho but the statement has the stamp of the man all over it. If you analyze the teams managed by him (Porto, Chelsea & Inter), one thing that stands out is his equation and rapport with his players. He has this unique ability to create a positive atmosphere in a team and inspire players to push themselves beyond the comfort zone. Case in point – Frank Lampard: ‘I’ve had really good managers and different managers at times. It’s the ones that get the best out of you, individually.’ He goes on to say ‘Mourinho was the best. For me he was. He brought my confidence to a level it had never been.’ There is little doubt that Jose would have created some star Knowledge Managers who would have gone any distance for him.

The value of dialogue & communication– Before joining Inter, Mourinho stated “I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans.” Wouldn’t it have been brilliant if a CKO had put his time in preparing him for meaningful dialogues with the stakeholders and team members? Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to have a CKO who felt it is important to get one’s hands dirty rather than being restricted to operational stuff and talk only in strategic terms?

Inspire – Sports psychologist Andy Barton once commented: “Mourinho will always look to turn a negative into a positive. If a team is 3-0 down at half time and the manager starts screaming about all the mistakes made, it doesn’t help. Instead he’ll focus on things they are doing right, and then tell them how they can turn the game around.” As a CKO, Jose would probably have stuck to the same principle and it is unlikely that his team would not have responded to him at times when the chips are down.

Know your strengths – Jose once famously commented “If Roman Abramovich helped me out in training we would be bottom of the league and if I had to work in his world of big business, we would be bankrupt!” A CKO who openly acknowledges his weaknesses (there by allowing others around him to focus on what they do best) and focuses on his strengths is poised for success, isn’t it? In-depth knowledge and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses in you and your team members is a critical success factor but it needs a lot of hard work on the part of the CKO. Mourinho’s right hand man (someone who has stayed with him at every club), Rui Faria said “Every other top coach says they work hard and they prepare better than anyone else, but they can’t make what Mourinho does. Everything he does is better. He works harder than anyone else. He knows everything about every player and every game.”

Make the most of emotions – Jose’s relationship with Didier Drogba is legendary. Let me share a few lines (I found it here) from the foreword he wrote for Drogba’s autobiography.

Didier Drogba came into my life in the fifth minute of a Champions League game in Marseille’s mythical Vélodrome. I’d hardly sat down when that giant with the number 11 on his shirt scored. I remember he celebrated that goal like it was his last and he turned an already hostile atmosphere into a fireball of flares, chants and emotion. The crowd went mad, the noise was deafening.

At half-time I found him in the tunnel and told him: ‘I don’t have the money to buy you, but do you have any cousins that can play like you in the Ivory Coast?’ In the middle of this tense qualification game he laughed, hugged me and said: ‘One day you’ll be in a club which can buy me.’

Six months later I signed for Chelsea. I had found a super powerful club which everybody wanted to negotiate with, everybody wanted to be linked to – and everybody wanted to play for. I had a number of options, but I arrived and said: ‘I want Didier Drogba.’ Doubts and questions were raised by a few people: ‘Why this one?’, ‘Why not that one?’, ‘Are you sure he will adapt?’, ‘Is he really that good?’

‘I want Didier Drogba,’ I said.

 A few days passed and I met with Didier in a private airport in London. Again he hugged me, but this time in an unforgettable way: an embrace that showed this man’s gratitude, and the affection he feels towards people who mean a lot to him. Indescribable. Then he told me: ‘Thank you. I will fight for you. You won’t regret it. I will stay loyal to you forever.’ And that’s just what he’s done…

What does a CKO need to be SUCCESSFUL when he gets a Drogba and a Lampard in his team? Not much, I suppose…apart from keeping them engaged and pushing them to newer heights. And who else but Jose can do it with perfection?

Many of the quotes that I have used in this post are from this article. I owe a lot to the article as it has helped me immensely to structure my ideas.



Never Underestimate the Underdogs!

I must confess that I was in a catch 22 frame of mind on whether I should follow the FA Cup final between Wigan and Manchester City last weekend. The reports leading up to the final seem to suggest that it would be a routine victory for City. They just could not lose as it was their last chance to salvage some pride and win a piece of silverware from a season that has not gone not too well especially considering their new found status of reigning English Premier League champions.

I dilly-dallied and finally switched on the TV after the game was well on its way. One of the reasons why I switched on was due to the fact that I really like Wigan as a football club. I do not follow their fortunes every week (following Chelsea is proving to be quite hecticJ) through the league season but the Houdini acts that they produce at the end of each season is something which I just love and cherish as a football fan. The other reason for liking Wigan has been their Manager, Roberto Martinez, who loves signing his match notes with the phrase “Sin Miedo” (without fear). It seems Martinez is able to somehow instill this Sin Miedo approach into his team’s game during the last couple of months in the season and Wigan somehow survives for another year in the Premier League. However the statistic that compelled me to cheer for Wigan and in the process switch on the TV pertained to – the total cost of the Wigan team is $17 million and there are 11 players in the City squad who cost more than that individually!

I have heard a lot from my UK based colleagues and relatives / friends staying in the UK about the romantic notion that surrounds the FA Cup. It is the Holy Grail for the underdogs to topple the giants although as everyone knows the tournament has lost its sheen somewhat in recent years. I have never had the pleasure of watching it happen though and as I switched on the TV, I was hoping that my virtual support would spur Wigan to relive the romance that only be generated by football.

90 minutes on….I was ecstatic! Wigan had proved that nothing is impossible in football. The team stuck to their Manager’s approach of Sin Miedo, from the first minute till the end. The little known players of Wigan gave me and I am sure countless lovers of football goose bumps with their tenacity, fearlessness against much fancied opponents and desire to win. I became a fan of Callum McManaman instantly. He was simply unplayable and the way he wrecked havoc among the City defenders reminded me of a certain young Michael Owen tormenting Argentine defenders in the 1998 World Cup.

One couldn’t but notice the romance that was oozing out of the match. The winning goal was scored by substitute Ben Watson who broke his leg last November. Talking of broken legs, the Wigan Chairman, Dave Whelan broke his leg while playing the FA Cup final for Blackburn in 1960. Broken legs in football often spell disaster but when you are spurred on by Sin Miedo, good news is just round the corner it seems. I took an important lesson in life from the game and mighty Wigan’s Sin Miedo approach!

While staying up in the Premiership is likely to be very difficult for Wigan with only two games to be played, you cannot possibly rule them out, as yet. I sincerely hope all the miracles come together to help Wigan stay up and continue to enthrall us football lovers year on year. It would be a big loss not to have the team in the Premier League next year that embodies an unpredictable and quirky brand of football that is downright romantic.

Rags to Riches…It’s now time to give back!

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Helen Keller

Football is not just a game to me. I look up to the actors / protagonists of the movie named ‘Football’ i.e. the footballers themselves for inspiration when I feel down and pessimistic. They often provide me with the much needed courage and hope in my journey to achieve excellence in Knowledge Management.

But who are these actors in real life? Well, they are very successful professionals, idolised by people of all ages and who often are often categorised via the somewhat clichéd phrase ‘big boys with big cars.’ But is there anything that contradicts this stereotyped perspective. I tried to find an answer and did a bit of research on some of the footballers I idolise myself. The footballers I have chosen came from modest backgrounds and have one thing in common. They are from Africa and all of them have enthralled us with their sublime skills.

I will start with Nwankwo Kanu (a.k.a Papilo). The former Arsenal, Ajax and Inter Milan star had to undergo a heart surgery in 1996 and did not return to the football field till 1997. He came back with a bang and became a huge favourite for Arsenal fans. I still remember his breathtaking hatrick in 15 minutes against Chelsea in the 1999-2000 season when his side was down 0-2. It was painful for us, Chelsea fans, but anyone who loves football would have appreciated the sheer brilliance that was on display that night.

In 2000, the Kanu Heart Foundation was born with the aim of bringing back smiles on the faces of Africa’s children and young adults who suffer from various heart related diseases. The mission statement of the charity states ‘The goodwill generated by those who donate for these life threatening open – heart surgeries cannot be over emphasized as we owe gratitude to the Almighty God, the teaming Nigerians, Africans and Europeans, corporate bodies, government and various Agencies that have identified with this humanitarian venture of saving lives’. The Foundation has facilitated more than 400 heart surgeries at a success rate of 98.5%. In the world of football, often dominated by news of big ticket transfers and astronomical weekly wages, the Kanu Heart Foundation shines brightly with its simple message of saving lives and making a difference. You can find more about the Foundation at http://www.kanuheartfoundationng.com/index.php

 Next in line is Michael Essien, one of my all time favourites. I consider myself to be very lucky to have seen him play a couple of times. Michael, a true hero for us, the Chelsea fans, grew up in Awutu Breku in Ghana. The place, typical of many regions in the developing world offered little scope and opportunities to people like Michael achieve their full potential. He chose football as the vehicle to express himself and for the rest you may speak to a Chelsea fan!

 The Michael Essien Foundation was created to provide opportunities for the people of the region where he grew up. More importantly it is perceived as an initiative that offers hope and inspiration for the underprivileged to dream on. The Foundation aims to improve the access to basic amenities like:

  • Good quality drinking water
  • More public toilets (plug the gap as most homes in the region do not have individual toilets)
  • Improving the skills of women (programme run as a tribute to Michael’s mum)
  • Local clinic (with the aim to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals for Ghana)
  • Public library for school kids (to serve 15 villages across the region)

To know more about Michael, who is happily reunited with his ‘Papa’ in Spain (hopefully both of them would be back with Chelsea soon) and his Foundation, please visit http://www.michaelessiengh.com/foundation/aim-objective-5year-plan.html

“We had two stones for goalposts and played four against four. Sometimes something sharp would cut your feet, but we played through our wounds, didn’t even think about them. We just loved to play.” This is probably a statement, a lot of African football stars can relate to. However, in this case it refers to John Utaka, who played for Portsmouth and currently is with Montpellier. Utaka who became a cult figure during his stint with his club team Ismaily in Egypt (where fans used to chant ‘Oh Oh Oh Utaka, Oh Oh Oh Utaka’) started the ‘John Utaka’ Foundation with the objective of helping disadvantaged children and youth fulfill their dreams and ambitions.

 Some of the specific activities carried out by the foundation include:

  • Providing medical services for the disabled children
  • Allow children to express themselves through games like football, basket ball, table tennis by setting up sports facilities
  • Establish vocational centres to enable people for the communities to develop skills in areas like craft, carpentry, metal and wood works and tailoring
  • Train them to prepare for getting themselves a job

 To know more, please visit http://thejohnutakafoundation.net

And finally, it is time to salute someone who to me appears as an enigma, a larger than life character, unstoppable in front of the goal on his day and a true Chelsea legend. Yes, I am talking about someone special. He is………………..

Oh oh Didier Drogba,
Didier Drogba, we love you.

The Foundation created in 2007 strives to provide support to the health and education sectors in Africa. To kick start the Foundation, Drogba pumped in his personal funds. He also ensured that the profits from his book “Didier Drogba: The autobiography” and DVD “The Incredible Destiny of Didier Drogba” goes to the Foundation. Using its founder’s silky skills in charming one and all, the Foundation has raised more than £1 million from the three annual charity balls (last one held in March 2012).

The Foundation has been instrumental in building a hospital in Abidjan and aims to build schools across Ivory Coast in the days to come. You can catch more on the Foundation at http://www.thedidierdrogbafoundation.com/

There are many more inspiring stories and I would have loved to go on and on. However, the efforts of these 4 gifted footballers probably capture the essence. Let celebrate football and let’s make a difference by using the game as a conduit. Kudos to these fantastic players and individuals! Keep playing and continue to help all of us smile by being a role model both on and off the field.

My love affair with Football

Football to me is more than a game. It is a way of life. My mom tells me that I started kicking the ball almost at the same time when I started walking. As I grew up, I played the game as much I can (till the time I realized that I needed to do something else for a living). My love affair with football grew with every passing moment and I craved for more. Growing up in football crazy Kolkata did help. I was able to persuade my parents to send me to watch Uruguay and Francescoli play in the inaugural Nehru Cup in the Eden Gardens (yes once upon a time football matches were played in the iconic Cricket Stadium!). I was 7 and while I watched the matches from the top tier (far far away from the centre of action), I realized that I was getting emotionally connected to the game. I could talk about it for hours and never felt tired of trying to pronounce the somewhat unfamiliar surnames of my then heroes correctly – Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay), Laszlo Kiss (Hungary), Jorge Burruchaga (Argentina), Nery Pumpido (Argentina), Euzebiusz Smolarek (Poland) etc etc.

The Nehru Cup continued to prosper for a few years and attracted teams like Poland, Argentina, Hungary, South Korea, China etc. I somehow managed to convince my dad that he should get the tickets for me when the third edition of the tournament was played in Kolkata again. I was awestruck by the talent and skill that was on display, primarily from a strong Poland team. My love affair with football went to the next level!

My generation’s growing up coincided with the television revolution in India where for the first time we were able to see live football games. Initially it was the World Cup and the European Championships on Doordarshan (public service broadcaster). And then something spectacular happened! One of my friend’s dad discovered that one could see highlights of the newly launched English Premier League every weekend if you could catch the TV channels in Bangaldesh. The enterprising device which made this miracle a reality was called ‘booster’ and was used almost in every household in Kolkata for a few years. We could watch football on a weekly basis and names like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool became common household names.

As we grew up, my friends slowly started to tilt in favour of Man Utd or Liverpool. While I was a huge fan of Eric Cantona and the young David Beckham, I wanted to support another team (partly due to the fact it wasn’t much fun if we had supported the same teams). I couldn’t make up my mind till 2001 when ESPN Star Sports announced that prime time English Premier League matches would be shown ‘live’ in India. I had to make up my mind this time and I chose ‘Chelsea’. The combination of Marcel Desailly, Gustavo Poyet, Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo proved too much and I enrolled myself as a Blues fan. It took me another 10 years though to visit Stamford Bridge and join the chorus:

Blue is the colour, football is the game

We’re all together and winning is our aim

So cheer us on through the sun and rain

Cos Chelsea, Chelsea is our name.

 My football Odyssey currently revolves around the fortunes of Chelsea (every year from August onwards). Every four years, I switch my allegiance to Brazil for a month (Messi is making it difficult though!) and hope for jogo bonito.

Apart from watching football, I have started reading books on Football (more on that on a separate post). Biographies of players who have enthralled me on the field provide me inspiration to continue with my dreams and while I don’t get a chance to play anymore regularly, I never miss an opportunity to kick the ball (whenever, wherever).