What can we Belgians learn from the success of our soccer team at the world cup?
This story has been published in French in the Belgian media “L’Echo”: 5 leçons à tirer du succès des diables rouges.
We win when we speak the same language
English has become de facto the working language of our team. While the idea of letting everyone speak their own regional language sounds nice and kind of worked when Belgium was only about Dutch and French speaking people, it is just not practical anymore today.
When I was invited with 9 other young people at a dinner with the queen and the king of Belgium last winter to talk about the challenges of our generation, we all spoke English together. Until the queen and the king arrived that is. Then — protocol obliged — we all¹ switched to Dutch and French.
Our generation doesn’t care about traditional politics and what’s politically correct. No protocol, no bullshit. “On s’en bat les couilles” as De Bruyne would say. We just want to work together and get the job done. And when politics and old ways of doing things don’t get in the way, boy can we go far!
We win when we play offense
The Red Devils scored more goals in one world cup than they did during my entire youth. We used to play defense. We used to wait and see what the other team would do. The Belgian team that wins is a team that plays offense. Likewise, we shouldn’t wait for other countries to make the first move. Legalization of marijuana, psychadelics, universal basic income, micro mobility, etc. Let’s be at the forefront. Same in the private sector, we shouldn’t wait to see what other foreign companies are going to come up with. Dare to innovate. Dare to try something new. Play offense!
We win when we send our talents abroad
What’s the difference between the 1994 soccer team and the 2018 soccer team? In 1994, all players played in the Belgian league. In 2018, the majority are playing abroad. We shouldn’t talk about brain drain when our talents are leaving Belgium. We should talk about brain training.
We win when we hire people from abroad
The pool of talent will always be bigger outside of Belgium than in Belgium (it’s simple math). Hiring Martinez and Henry was a great move by the Belgian team. This was possible because the working language of our team was English. If we want to be able to learn from the best, we need to be open to the world.
Next time you make slides or write the minutes of a meeting, do it in English. It will create a work environment that is much more inviting for talents coming from abroad. Become an attractive place for foreigners. Everybody will win.
We win when we are inclusive
On the pitch like in the parliament or in a meeting room, having different people from different cultures brings much needed new perspectives. If you only have white men in your team who have been to the same schools, you won’t see all the different sides of the problem and you won’t learn as much. The more diverse your team is, the more perspectives, the more innovative you will be. Belgian teams win when they are inclusive to all cultures and when everyone feel welcome to contribute.
Other things that you’ve learned in this world cup? Please share!
See you in 2 years!
¹ Well, not all since I ended up sticking to English the entire evening out or principle. I argued with Philippe that the challenges that our generation has to face require new ways of working together. We not only need to communicate with people in the south and north of the country but also with people all around the world. Belgium is stronger together. But Belgium is not anymore just about French and Dutch speaking people.