Nick Hartshorn

Today’s guest author is Nick Hartshorn, Business Development Manager at AVI-SPL Middle East. Nick has a passion for connecting people and experiential technology to create dynamic, impactful, and productive work and life experiences.

The following article comes from Nick’s personal LinkedIn page. He has agreed to let us share his perspectives.


In the wake of the Rugby World Cup, I found myself engaged in a great conversation with Simon Light, the CEO for EMEA at GHD. Our chat seamlessly weaved between the intricacies of rugby and the broader realm of leadership and adaptation. It was during this dialogue that Simon shared a gem of a recommendation: a book titled “Legacy” by James Kerr. The book takes readers on an immersive journey into the heart of the New Zealand All Blacks, unrivalled champions of the rugby world and arguably the most successful sports team of all time across any discipline. This post will focus primarily on adaptability and how it’s pivotal to prolonged success across both the sporting and technology worlds.

James Kerr had the privilege of being an insider during the All Blacks 2010 season, leading up to their historic triumph in the 2011 World Cup. This victory was the precursor to their record-breaking back-to-back Rugby World Cup wins in 2011 and 2015. However, what “Legacy” truly uncovers goes beyond the individual coaching brilliance of Graham Henry and Steve Hansen (The All Blacks coaching team at the time). It delves deep into the culture that has elevated the All Blacks to the undisputed pinnacle of rugby. With an astonishing 86%-win ratio in the professional era (maybe slightly less now Ireland and France have been waving the flag for us in the Northern Hemisphere and adding a few more L’s to those stats), what is undisputed is the All Blacks have etched their name in sporting history books.

Kerr distils the essence of this remarkable culture into 15 key pillars and lessons. One of these pillars, and the focal point of this post, is “ADAPT”. It can be encapsulated with a simple mantra: “When you’re on top of your game, change your game”.

The idea is that all organisational cultures become victims of their own success and suffer the inevitability of the Sigmoid Curve (an inverted U or N shape graph). The curve can be broken down simply into three phases: the learning phase, the growth phase and the decline phase. The All Blacks realised after their 40-26 loss to South Africa in 2004, which was the culmination of a series of incidents that indicated the All Blacks had entered the decline phase of their graph. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, was the brand manager for the All Blacks at the time. Kevin highlights that top-tier organisations need to continuously find opportunities to innovate and change their game to avoid the inevitable decline phase and keep riding the crest of that growth phase wave. The All Blacks embraced this with full force and coined the idea – “go for the gap”. When asked about his time with the All Blacks years later Kevin explained go for the gap was a mantra the All Blacks had taken to like ducks to water. At the top of your game, change your game.

The go-for-the-gap concept I believe has direct resonance in the world of technology. Technology, almost by definition, must inhabit this space to be truly effective. It’s introduced to elevate performance, to deliver better results with greater efficiency. This, plus the sporting context, immediately had me thinking of an awesome new company we are beginning to work with in the Middle East called PAM.

PAM are well and truly living by the go-for-the-gap ethos. PAM are pioneers in the location- based experience space and specialise in making event spaces like sports stadiums, retail spaces, as well as corporate and university campuses more efficient, through innovative way-finding tools. They have a very cool platform that, when implemented relieves the stress of navigating very hectic and crowded venues and ensures you get the experience you’re looking for. Whether this be by highlighting the quickest stop-off to get a coffee or some merch on your way into the stadium. Imagine a one-stop shop web-based application merging: Google Maps, Waze, and a personal pocket-sized timeout guide. It’s seriously worth checking out.

Another key element of the ADAPT pillar is to create a constant feedback loop. Kerr discusses the military decision-making process OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA). It’s known that in military dog fights, the pilot most likely to survive is the pilot who gets inside the OODA loop first. A great example of this in the technology world was demonstrated to a tee at the Apple Keynote of June 29th, 2007, with the launch of the iPhone. The reigning smartphone titan, BlackBerry, had been riding that growth phase with little to no competition. But BlackBerry did not change their game. They fell obsessed with the keyboard that initially set BlackBerry apart and fixated on bettering that design, they failed to adapt. BlackBerry launched their new trackball on the BlackBerry Curve just a month before Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, with the full screen touch display that changed the face of the smartphone forever. BlackBerry were definitely 2nd into the OODA loop in that dogfight. And they hit a steep dive into their decline phase. If you haven’t seen Matt Johnson’s recent BlackBerry film, I highly recommend it. The film encapsulates this narrative exceptionally well.

An entire industry now exists to equip businesses with the tools and insights they need to excel in the “Observe” and “Orient” phases of the OODA loop. Innovative technology companies, such as Anaplan, Asana, and Power BI, lead the charge.

To summarise, the wisdom drawn from the best sports team of all time and technology converges on a common theme. Adaptation is the linchpin of sustained success. Whether it’s on the rugby pitch or in the ever-evolving digital landscape, the ability to “go for the gap” and evolve continuously is the hallmark of true champions.

In our dynamic world, staying ahead in the OODA loop is the key to thriving as we navigate the exciting, yet unpredictable, landscape of the digital age. Contact me If you’re keen to dive further into how AVI-SPL could help you be first into the OODA loop in your business.