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Back to the Future: Steve Hansen on Innovation

Steve Hansen shares his thoughts on how and why coaches should be innovative. 

**This is video is part of a six-part video series, featuring Steve Hansen talking about leadership throughout his coaching journey. To view all the videos in this series, click here. 

Steve Hansen shares his thoughts on why it’s important to be innovative as a coach, and some ideas around what he does to be innovative. 

What is innovation and why is it important for coaches? 

Steve Hansen talks about innovation as the process of constantly asking questions all with the purpose of improving performance. It’s closely linked to curiosity. A lot of Steve Hansen’s stories from the video highlights his curiosity. It is clear that asking questions to see if there was a better way to do things is a big part of his coaching process. 

By being innovative, coaches are putting themselves and their teams in a great position to stay ahead of the opposition. By asking questions like: 

  • ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ 
  • ‘Who does this better than us that we can learn from?’ 
  • ‘Let’s give it a try, what have we got to lose?’ 

Coaches are helping themselves and their athletes come up with new and better ways to execute skills or tactics. 

Hansen shared a good example around how the All Blacks went into a couple of Football teams environments to learn about how they train their players to see space. As he says, ‘Soccer is a great game for space. You see those guys, they have one touch (of the ball) and then boom, the ball is way over there’. He was open to learning from another sport and that led to the All Blacks being innovative around different ways they could exploit space. That is innovative coaching. 

How can coaches be more innovative? 

Steve Hansen shared some great ideas on how coaches can become more innovative in their coaching. These were: 

1| Inconvenient facts 

These are defined by Steve Hansen as: 

“what is happening that you need to be honest with yourselves about, even though you may be winning”.  

This could be a particular tactic you are using that isn’t being effective, or off the field/court/track things like the way the team is interacting or behavioural standards slipping. 

2| Be curious 

The main example from Hansen was looking at and learning from other sports, like the Football example above. But wider than that one example, a lot of what he said about innovation can be scaled back to ultimately being curious. He constantly is asking questions to see if things can be done better. Which leads me to point 3. 

3| Humility 

As Steve Hansen so eloquently puts it: 

“We aren’t the best at everything we do… Other teams are doing things better than us, so let’s go and pinch what they’ve got. And not be too proud to say well actually they are doing that better than us. I’m happy to look at it and give it a go.” 

It’s refreshing to hear the coach of the team that had been number one in the world for six years straight at that point outline that he was completely ok to acknowledge that others were doing things better than them, and that they actively tried to learn from those teams. Also, when other teams are doing things better than you, it forces coaches to think differently about the way they do things to try and improve them.  

In summary 

Detailed above are three powerful ways that you can become more innovative in your coaching. By starting to try some of these behaviours, as a coach you begin to show leadership and role model to your athletes that these behaviours are positive. In turn, your athletes may then start to show more curiosity, be ok with trying things and failing (but learning from them) and looking in different places to get ideas. 

View more of the Back to the Future Series with Steve Hansen below: 

Part 2: Steve Hansen on Vulnerability 

Part 3: Steve Hansen on Motivation 

Part 4: Steve Hansen on Alignment 

Part 5: Steve Hansen on Resistors 

Part 6: Steve Hansen on Leadership 

Image Credit: James Coleman

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