Scoring at work

BOOK REVIEW

By David Lewis

The Beautiful Mind Game

by Renato Fantoni

www.bookshaker.com, £15.00, pp. 183

ISBN 9781905430727

This book, by Finchley businessman Renato Fantoni, approaches the self-improvement market from the unique angle of the football aficionado. You may be currently absorbed by the twists and turns of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but pay attention: Fantoni’s ambitious aim is to show you how you can use football to improve your life and your work.

Italian by origin, Renato Fantoni is in every sense a Renaissance Man. There’s Fantoni the Finchleyite, raised in East Finchley and educated at Finchley County Grammar School. In the 1970s he was a member of a rock band called The Funky 5 from Finchley. He’s run both his businesses – HPS World of Hotels and Fantoni Coaching Assessing and Training – from offices in North Finchley since 1990.

Fantoni the Finchleyite is also Fantoni the footballer. He once took – and failed – a football trial for the Finchley Azzurri. His greatest football moment was winning a friendly match in Victoria Park.

Then there’s Fantoni the fan. He doesn’t say in his book which club team he supports, perhaps not wishing to alienate potential customers who might be rival fans. So I shall not reveal this secret, except to say that he supports the same team I do.

I happen to know all this about Renato because he’s part of my business network. What I didn’t know until I happened to spot his book in the North Finchley Waterstone’s is that all this time Fantoni the footballer, fan and business coach has been thinking deeply about the nature of the game and trying to figure out how its lessons can be applied in life and the workplace.

We must all have noticed the close relationship between life and games. It seems that games develop in imitation of some aspect of life: often war, as with chess, draughts, and team sports such as football and rugby.

This is interesting, but then an even more interesting thing happens. The game, which developed in simulation of life, now returns the compliment and provides lessons on how to succeed in life. I believe this happens because the game is a simplification of life, with stricter rules, which creates a discipline in which principles of success become more readily apparent.

Fantoni recognises the dangers of taking such analogies too far, writing: “Sport is like war; it is based on winners and losers, but the world of work and business can be different because win-win situations are always possible.”

Early in his book, Fantoni sets the scene for later chapters by outlining the ten laws on teamwork of Marcello Lippi, who coached the Italy football team which won the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Together these laws form a theoretical and practical basis for promoting successful teamwork in the workplace.

The book goes on to cover other topics which unite the world of football and the world of work (and life): the role of emotion and passion; the individual and the group; the comfort zone. Fantoni proposes a simple, football-influenced decision-making model, called Top Team, for the running of one-to-one coaching sessions and other meetings. Other themes include winning from behind, contentment and dissatisfaction at work, time management, and competitive rivalry. He shares various philosophical reflections with readers. He approaches each idea rigorously by reference to the football experience, but rarely allows the analogy to override reality.

Do you need to be a football fan to get the best out of this book? Fantoni implies you don’t; I’m not so sure. I think you will get more from The Beautiful Mind Game if you understand something about football. I also think you will get more from it if you are in the market for training in management, coaching and self-improvement.

I would even suggest that if your knowledge of football – like mine – is less than encyclopaedic, you could learn quite a lot from the glossary of football expressions which concludes the book, and which Fantoni (perhaps having over-exposed himself to punning headlines on the back pages of the tabloids) titles “VocaBALLary”.

Renato Fantoni has produced an interesting and at times amusing work which successfully marries football lore and culture to the demands of modern business managers and coaches. Va bene.

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