8 Things That Taking Up Cricket has Taught me About Being a Better Innovation Coach

Updated: Jan 11

Maybe it’s a result of the tumultuous last 18 months; maybe it’s because I hit my own half century this month but for whatever the reason, I have decided to take up a new sport - Cricket!

So here’s the thing; I’ve always loved cricket. My father was a Yorkshire man and a cricketer so growing up we never really had a choice. I’ve been to many England games, I’m an avid listener to Test Match Special but I have never, ever played the game. It’s been a really interesting process, I’ve learnt so much about myself and I know this will make me a better innovation coach, here’s why….

1. Humility – I was so excited at our first training session; I had images of Jos Buttler in my head, convinced I was going to hit the ball sweetly and smash it for miles. As I picked up the bat I realised I didn’t even know how to hold it, never mind hit anything. My immediate emotion if I’m honest was a great disappointment in myself. By the end of the session, I’d just about managed to convince myself to embrace my humility and lean into the learning. I see this a lot when coaching Senior Execs, they sometimes turn up thinking they have all the answers and now I can empathise with how that must feel.

“My goal is not to be better than anyone else but to be better than I used to be.” - MS Dhoni

Sorry is the hardest word – At that first training session the word that could be heard ringing around constantly was ‘Sorry’. Sorry I can’t bowl a ball you can actually hit; sorry I missed that ball you bowled; sorry I dropped a catch. A quick group huddle ensued where we decided we were going to just stop saying sorry and start to embrace our beginner’s mindset. Just like an innovation team, were there to learn and we would make mistakes but that would fundamentally make us better.

“Actually, nobody can be perfect in cricket. Everybody makes mistakes. It is important to learn from your mistakes and correct them.”– Kumar Sangakkara

3. Jobs to Be Done – One day our amazing coach asked me what the main job of a batsman was? I smile smugly and said to hit the ball hard and score lots of runs. With a slow shake of her head, she gently reminds me my main job is to protect my wicket and to stay in for my team. A good reminder that what we think our customers want from us may not be the reason they buy – what really is the job to be done here?

“Cricket is a team game. If you want fame for yourself, go play an individual game.” - Gautam Gambhir

4. Every Ball is a new Ball – This is our team’s favourite mantra when batting; to us it means it doesn’t matter how great or how badly you hit the previous ball, you have to reset and focus to go again. When I’m coaching innovation teams I use this approach to reset my mindset for the next day, particularly when the previous day has been tough.

“I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up, and will never give up, till my last breath, and that’s what cricket has taught me.”– Yuvraj Singh

5. Be Generous with Praise – When my throw misses the stumps by a mile when trying for an ambitious run out my team shouts out “Right idea”, “Right place”, “That was so close”, (it wasn’t!) or “Next time, Kate.” This makes me feel fantastic and I’m absolutely going to try it again next time. My reflection here is that when I’m coaching innovation teams I think I’m so focussed about moving onto the next thing or trying to unpick what’s gone wrong that I don’t always remember to say well done for trying something new.

“I’m convinced things will go much better if the players smile and have some fun on the field, rather than acting like a wound-up spring.” - Jonty Rhodes

6. Focus on One Thing – There are so many things to think about when bowling a cricket ball; keeping your arm straight, following through, your run up, where does the ball pitch, etc. The first time in the nets my ball seemed to end up more often than not on top of the cricket net. I’m still not sure how I managed to do that! The only way I have manged to get any better is by being coached to just think about one thing, i.e. bowling straight. I’m finding it really useful to have this absurd physically painful process distilled into one simple thing. When coaching, this has made me think about clearly defining the purpose of the workshop or experiment, i.e. the purpose of this experiment is to test customer desirability.

“To me, cricket is a simple game. Keep it simple and just go out and play.” - Shane Warne

7. Embrace Diversity – My team is a really eclectic mix of ex-county players, first timers, beautiful athletic teenagers, exhausted working mums, including teachers, barristers and a nearly 50-year-old innovation coach. We must look an odd bunch and some days I feel like I’m in a remake of the movie ‘Calendar Girls’, but we are united in our purpose to master this frustrating game with a smile on our faces.

“No cricket team in the world depends on one or two players. The team always plays to win.” - Virat Kohli

8. Get a Great Coach – I guess my biggest learning here is if you want to learn a new thing get yourself a great coach who unlocks your learning journey and sees what you could be rather than what you are.

“I was playing cricket first and my cricket coach was the one that introduced me to track and field.” - Usain Bolt

QUICK UPDATE: Played in my first tournament, I was so nervous and totally out of my comfort zone. Amazingly we won our first game - I opened the bowling, dropped a catch, hit a four and absolutely loved it.

For once cricket has claimed you, it never lets you go.” - Marcus Berkmann

If you are interested in learning more about cricket then checkout:

The Hundred – a brand new short format of the game for Summer 2021 featuring men’s and women’s teams. I’ve already got my tickets booked.

Tailenders – a loosely based cricket podcast with Greg James, Jimmy Anderson and Felix White which is an alternative look at cricket. I think I’ve listened to every episode.

No Balls - a podcast hosted by professional female cricketers Alex Hartley and Kate Cross.

If you fancy giving women’s cricket a go then find your local festival here. It’s so inclusive that you don’t even have to have a team to play for, just register with the site and they will find you a team.


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