Retaining a thirst for learning and thinking about every scenario is key to business success, Sir Clive Woodward told Retail Week Live.

Former England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward, who spent 18 years in business prior to his career in sport, told delegates that being a “sponge” – by soaking up new information – was vital.

“The secret is trying to keep everyone a sponge-type person,” said Woodward. “You have to really understand the power in learning.

“It’s also about a passion for your subject. When you lose that you drift into being a rock.” Rocks tended to be people who had been at a company a long time, who were not taking on new ideas, he said. 

Woodward, who oversaw England’s victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, also talked about the need to get individuals locked into the power of data.

His ability to convince England players to understand IT and data was a key part of his success as a coach, he said. Very few England players knew how to use a laptop when Woodward took over as coach.

“IT made a massive difference,” Woodward added. “They started to take individual ownership for what they were doing.

“Whoever wins in IT tends to win.”

Woodward also said that though talent is important in individuals, the key is nurturing that talent.

“My mindset is you will not win just because you have talent. It’s the start not the finish” he said. “It’s how you leverage that talent.”

Woodward also used the example of the Chinese diving team at the 2004 Olympics, who missed out on gold by being distracted by a protestor in a tutu. He said the fact that the team had not prepared for all eventualities could have contributed to their failure.

“Thinking about every possible scenario is important,” he said.

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