The most exciting, thrilling, unpredictable world cup did anything but disappoint.

From Germany’s shocking early exit to Ronaldo’s thrilling hat-trick and all the entertaining narratives in-between (Maradona in the sky box and all his antics) there was just as much drama at every turn as there were lessons for companies to wisely learn.

Though there is much ‘ado’ to be had, let’s dive right in and discuss the TOP-7 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2018 WORLD CUP.

1) Trust and Teamwork Win Championships
While France had no shortage of superstars, it was the team’s trust in one another and its ability to execute on the world’s biggest stage – with the whole world watching – that made the difference. Businesses, like great teams, often cater to their biggest stars. But no individual is bigger than the team. When every ‘player’ buys-in and works toward the same goal, great things happen.

2) Underdogs: Believe in Yourselves!
Croatia, who faced France in the final, entered the tournament with a 7% chance to win (according to FiveThirtyEight). Their captain, Luka Modric, was voted the tournament’s best player, received the Golden Ball, and his team wouldn’t have succeeded without his leadership. How often do companies who feel like they are underdogs need to be lifted by a captain who believes in the mission and vision? A worthwhile lesson for every employee: probabilities only matter until they’re shattered. If goals are set and everyone works tirelessly to achieve them, regardless of the narrative, there’s never such a thing as an ‘underdog.’

3) It’s a Millennials’ Game and a Gen-Z World
Who didn’t fall in love with this year’s tournament darling, Killian Mbappé? His smile, his speed, his sportsmanship… his generous donation of this year’s World Cup earnings to a children’s charity (Premiers de Cordée). We love the superstars and track records of teams like Brazil, Germany, and Argentina, but perhaps there’s a commonality that kept them from contention. Countries like England, Belgium, Croatia and France all appeared to have youth on their side. From a professional standpoint, a company can’t be afraid to make room for new blood. And new ideas. Millennials and Gen-Zers thrive most in environments that allow the best ideas to emerge from anywhere and anyone. They’ll always need experience and leadership, so let’s encourage the youth movement to take place and move away from the hierarchy. This World Cup made evident that the next generation is exciting, thriving, and ready to rack up wins.

4) Slow and Steady Can Still Win the Race
“France had a Ferrari on its hands, but always drove the speed limit.” This quote comes from a nurse in France, who – like the rest of us – watched her team get off to a timid start at this year’s tournament, then patiently climb its way into the finals. While some squads came out guns blazing (like Russia’s stunning 5-0 win over Uruguay in the opening match), they rarely went the distance. It reminds us that no matter how fast you go, what matters most is surviving long enough to see the finish line.

5) VAR: Introducing New Tech to an Age-Old Sport
For generations, FIFA and its fans seemed to quietly agree that refereeing – like the game itself – should be conducted the old-fashioned way, as a real-time experience. But this year’s World Cup introduced the Video Assistant Referee, employing new technology to an antiquated system, and fans quickly adapted to the support this technology provided. For companies, it’s always time to reinvent, reimagine, and explore new ways to make our work better. It was fascinating to see how many fans would make the VAR ‘box’ sign after watching controversial plays. Forgetting the players’ on-field flops and griping antics, this crowd totally embraced their new technology.

6) Management Matters
In the end, players who didn’t connect with their managers — didn’t trust the lineups and/or game plans — dissented. (Looking at you, Argentina.) When teams like England and France truly embraced its coaches, their style, their game plan, and their mutual respect for players, they thrived. This is very much in-sync with today’s best-in-class companies, who present a clarity of vision that shows respect for its employees and seeks to empower them. In return, those employees trust and follow. And the results speak for themselves.

7) Passionate Leaders Rule
Watching the final and seeing the President of France on top of a table, screaming like a true fanatic. while cheering his team on, was deeply inspiring. The same could be said for Croatia’s President, who was seen wearing the team’s jersey in the final. Passion, belief, and – perhaps most important – sportsmanship at the highest level are exceptional and unheralded qualities. From a business perspective, when we see visionary leaders setting a tone, believing in their teams, and doing all they can to support them, their companies thrive. Leaders who aren’t afraid to wear the ‘team uniform,’ drink their own Kool-Aid, and scream on top of a table now and then are the ones employees want to follow. And we can all learn something from these two great leaders who left everything they had out on the field.

The 2018 World Cup was up on a screen in our office every day. Most of us came in, sat down, watched for a bit, and communed with each other before returning to work with smiles on our faces. It was the perfect backdrop for an exciting start to our summer and there were takeaways aplenty.

It’s healthy to do things differently, believe in your managers, gain inspiration from their leadership, and promote the next wave of superstars by making sure they’re all brought into the fold. It’s not about what others feel you can achieve or allowing them to dictate your probability of success. It’s about what you believe you can collectively accomplish and never letting anyone get in your way.

Ian Kaplan is the ultimate mover and shaker, bringing global opportunities to JWT INSIDE. His charisma, humor, and ability to find just the right solution for our clients is unmatched. In his free time, he stands on the sidelines at his twin daughters' soccer, lacrosse, and softball games and enjoys keeping the referees in line.