Why British Teams Can’t Win At Penalties

By | August 15, 2008

England football fans have long bemoaned the national teams’ inability to win matches in penalty shoot outs. Those fans will not be happy to learn that Open University (OU) researchers predict that Germany will beat England at a penalty shoot out in three out of four encounters.  This statistic isn’t based on the individual penalty taking skill of each country’s current line up, it’s a projection based on national characteristics.

Based on Hofstede’s work on how national characteristics express themselves in work situations, the OU team spotted a correlation with penalty shoot out success. Teams coming from countries with highly individualistic cultures, such as the UK and the Netherlands do badly. That seems strange as penalty taking is intrinsically individual, yet it seems the amount of pressure felt by individuals from an individualistic culture is higher, and their social bonds and sense of group responsibility are lower, leaving them feel alone and stressed as they kick the ball into Row Z. It’s not Stuart Pearce’s fault, one-third of that overshoot potential could be attributed to national difference.

Argentina and Germany have for more collective cultures, placing them at positions 2 and 3 in the penalty shootout victory table, behind South Korea who have built an international footballing reputation on penalties alone.

Whilst we may not spend our working days worrying about tie-breakers in international football competitions, many people do spend there days ensuring that people from different national backgrounds do work together well and deliver results both individually and as a team. Understanding the basic drivers of how people view themselves and others in the workplace is vital to creating integrated, successful teams, and we’ve worked with companies in the UK and throughout the world to help their managers make sense of the international world they operate in.

Now if only someone could fund research to work out why Team GB looks set to win a disproportionate number of medals from sports that involve lots of sitting down.

To find out how we could help you develop a successful team, please contact us.


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