Make dodgeball an Olympic sport (outside of work)


Many are calling for dodgeball to be made an Olympic sport. In fact, the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) granted observer status to this non-traditional sport last fall.

But to become part of the games there needs to be proof that dodgeball is a widespread sport.

Dodgeball organizations need to include proof that the sport is practiced in more than a certain number of countries on multiple continents by both sexes, and they have to be compliant with the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
— Global Association of International Sports Federations

No problem! These are so easy to prove for dodgeball, unlike say, pole dancing, which has also been granted observer status.

Dodgeball is the unofficial Olympic sport of workplaces around the world, with tens of millions of people playing every day, sometimes all day. 

From my observation, women and men are equally skilled and excel with only mild stimulants like bad coffee, looming budget cuts, or a bad financial quarter.

The bigger, more bureaucratic and hierarchical the organization, the more likely you are to find people who could easily qualify to be part of a gold medal team. They’ve been training on the job for most of their working lives. They are so outstanding at playing at work that I doubt there will be too many problems with doping. Then again, the Russians might have another view considering their bureaucratic mastery.

Dodgeball rules and the 5D’s

For those of you who didn’t grow up playing dodgeball in PE class or on the street as I did in Boston, it’s a simple game: two teams try to throw balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves. The objective is to eliminate everyone on the opposing team by hitting them with balls or catching a ball thrown by someone on the other team.

The balls are usually foam or rubber, so you don’t get physically hurt. Lots of running around and a simple strategy: don’t get hit and hit as many on the other team as possible.

It’s like a lot of meetings you’ve been in, right? Or when you’re trying to get more budget for your department. Or meet any performance metric that means someone has to lose for someone else to win.  (One CEO of a $70 billion company calls it “competitive collaboration.” Oy.)

Proficiency in dodgeball is all about mastering the 5D’s: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Again, people at work excel in all five.  Every day you find people at work:

1. Dodging the elephants in the room.

2. Ducking uncomfortable conversations.

3. Dipping under the radar to avoid being asked to change how they work or to replace old systems and processes.

4. Diving for cover when a courageous team mate speaks up to the boss and you would rather seek cover than to be associated with your Rebel friend.

5. Dodging giving – and hearing -- honest and helpful feedback.

A dodgeball disadvantage for Rebels at Work?

While Rebels at Work are proficient in dodgeball – how could you not be if you’re employed and work with people -- Carmen and I find Rebels are better at playing offense, throwing the ball to get their change resistant colleagues and bosses out.

Dodging and ducking, not so much. We call out what no longer works and try not to duck difficult conversations and the general discomfort of change, as difficult as that may be.

While we’re always trying to support and promote Rebels at Work, I’m afraid we and our friends may not make the cut for the dodgeball Olympic qualifying teams.

But I like to fantasize about how much real change we could get done while our stuck-in-the-mud colleagues are off playing at the Olympics.

A straightforward mission

While it may take a while for dodgeball to become an Olympic sport, the 2018 Dodgeball World Cup competition will be held this year in one of the great office and bureaucracy capitals of the world: New York City.

The mission, per The World Dodgeball Association, “We want to achieve something straightforward.”

Don't we all.


Alone and not alone

I just got back from a 5-day creative writing retreat with 10 brave, talented artists. It was an intense, exhausting and exhilarating experience where our extraordinary teacher Ann Randolph gently yet firmly pushed us way outside our comfort zones.

We wrote alone, sitting in the same room. And then we read our stories aloud to one another. 

It felt sacred, being alone and together. Having time to go deep into our own writing and reflection, and then being able to speak our truths among such a safe, caring group of people. 

What does this have to do with being a Rebel at WorK? I "re-entered" the work world wondering:

  • Why are so many work relationships and "team building" attempts so superficial? If there were more ways to share more of the real us, there could be so much more empathy, compassion and psychological safety at work.  And with that, more people might speak up and more might listen. And more of the right things might get done faster.
  • Why don't more people take time to journal about their work to more clearly understand what's happening and put it into perspective? Research shows that when we slow things down and reflect, we're able to be more creative about solving especially challenging problems. Check out this recent HBR post by former CEO Dan Ciampa, "The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal." (Then insert, "The More Rebellious You Are...")
  • Similarly, why don't more people take time to think? Especially with close friends. One of the articles I re-read every summer is "Of Solitude and Leadership" by former Yale professor William Dersiewicz, based on his speech to plebes at West Point. It's long, but his perspectives on bureaucracy, complacency and conformity speak to us Rebels. His view on how to "find the strength to challenge an unwise order or wrongheaded policy" is especially wise. And something we can all do.
  • Why don't more people do the right thing just because it's the right thing?  Some of my best writing will never be published. Some of our bravest rebel recommendations will never get us a promotion. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't persevere.  Let's stop aiming for the biggest platform to change the world or a bazillion Twitter followers and just do work that matters, however "small" it may seem.  Charles' Einstein's recent piece, "The Age of We Need Each Other" captures this thought brilliantly.

I hope you find some time this summer to reflect, have leisurely conversations with friends about ideas that matter, and keep on. You have more talents and innate wisdom than you probably realize.

Who needs the soft skills?

  Fearless Ideas cropped

“We think that technology people might benefit from some of the soft skills,” an O’Reilly exec said when he approached us about doing a video program based on our book, “Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change.”

Carmen and I smiled and agreed, holding ourselves back from being bad rebels and shouting, “Might?? Might?! It’s all about soft skills. You can’t get any kind of meaningful work done if you don’t know how to enlist support, have difficult conversations, build positive relationships with people who aren’t necessarily warm and fuzzy, communicate in ways that connect with heads and hearts, and develop personal resiliency so that you can weather those times when things don’t work out.”

Like good rebels, we calmly acknowledged that there is a need for soft skills if you work with people, and if your work requires you to get support for new projects or introduce new ideas, you need soft skills squared.

Then we got to work creating a program that’s like a graduate seminar in organizational dynamics and emotional intelligence, interviewing fascinating experts like Adam Grant, a Wharton School professor and author of Originals: How Non Conformists Move the World, Maria Sirois, a psychologist with deep expertise in positive psychology, Paul Furey, a psychologist who coaches business people in how to have difficult conversations.

Some soft skill highlights from the “Be a Brave, Big-Hearted Rebel At Work: Get Unstuck, Find New Perspective” video learning program:

  • The single most important “soft skill” to develop? Reduce the anxiety of people you’re talking and working with. Executive coach Maria DeCarvalho on how to deliver difficult messages.
  • The single biggest mistake to avoid? Creating disruption at work. Focus on developing relationships, not disrupting and alienating people. Corporate Rebels United's Peter Vander Awera on learning from setbacks and failures.
  • What to do when the you-know-what hits the fan? Lean on your biggest strengths, and be more of who you are when you’re at your best.  Psychologist Maria Sirois  on developing optimism and resiliency.
  • How to find the right boss and place to work? When interviewing probe how open the organization is to people who want to introduce to ideas. Specifically ask: What happened to people who brought up unpopular ideas? What questions are off limits? (Ideally, none should be) What’s the biggest problem in this organization that everyone recognizes and no one talks about? Author and Wharton professor Adam Grant on what to look for in managing the relationship with your boss.
  • The amazingly simple way to settle down and not say something stupid when we’re becoming emotional? Say what you’re feeling. When we hear ourselves say what we’re feeling we settle down and become more rationale. Psychologist  Paul Furey on managing your emotions and anger.
  • What is the biggest reason so many good ideas never happen? We create solutions to the wrong problems. Maria DeCarvalho walks through the Immunity to Change framework, which helps diagnose the real problem in an organization.
  • What would happen if there were no rebels and change agents at work? Insanity. Art of Hosting master facilitator Tenneson Woolf in the Parting Shots video, a free segment with some “best of” advice.

Who needs to improve their soft skills? All of us.

p.s. – A recent study in the U.K. found that soft skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy. According to Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills for the Confederation of British Industry, "Business is clear that developing the right attitudes and attributes in people - such as resilience, respect, enthusiasm and creativity - is just as important as academic or technical skills.

Learn more about the Be a Brave, Big-Hearted Rebel video program here.