How sports psychology led to a leading business initiative
English cricketer Sir Andrew Strauss tells High Life how his experience of performance psychology helped him to develop corporate coaching company Mindflick
Illustrations by: David Doran
The difference between elite sportspeople and the rest can often be put down to one thing: mindset.
When he began playing for England at Test level in 2004, Sir Andrew Strauss was “a pretty accomplished cricketer”, as he rather modestly puts it. That’s “pretty accomplished” as in making his debut at Lord’s against New Zealand with scores of 112 and 83 and receiving the Man of the Match award into the bargain.
But while Strauss had spent much of his life up to that point honing the kind of technique that allowed him to swat the ball around the ground seemingly effortlessly, he’d spent next to no time developing the mental side of his game.
“Ironically, that served me quite well for the first 12 months or so because I kept my game very simple and didn’t overthink it,” he recalls. “But inevitably when you’re playing at the top level, you have a dip in form. I found myself getting into a bit of a siege mentality and increasingly my thoughts were about what might go wrong rather than what might go right.”
At the time, Strauss sought help from Dr Mark Bawden, the England team’s psychologist, who helped him to focus on his mindset, and to try to build mental resilience to the pressures that come with playing at the highest level. When Strauss became captain, Bawden also helped him to get the best from his team by understanding what made each individual member tick.
When Strauss retired in 2013, he and Bawden, together with Dr Pete Lindsay, another sports psychologist, set up a company, Mindflick, aimed at bringing the benefits of performance psychology to a wider audience. For a while, the project was put on the back burner, but in the last couple of years the company has been making waves in the corporate coaching arena.
“We use cutting-edge research around how the brain works to help people when they’re under stress and when they really have to do what they need to do,” says Strauss, who’s no tyro when it comes to the world of business – he studied economics at university and wrote his dissertation on advanced game theory.
Essentially, the Mindflick approach is about having the right mental toolbox to be able to shift our way of thinking, both as individuals and as part of a team, so we can deliver when it really matters, whether that’s walking out at Lord’s or heading to the boardroom for a make-or-break meeting. The company has developed an interactive personality profiling app called Spotlight, which helps users to understand how they view the world and how they’re likely to react under pressure.
“The more you interact with it, the more it becomes specifically tailored towards you,” says Strauss. “People development tends to be quite generic and we feel that the more we can make it absolutely specific and tailored to the user, the better.”
The benefits of an ability to mentally adapt to changing circumstances have been magnified during the last 18 months, Strauss believes: “The businesses and people that have reacted best to the pandemic have been the ones that have been able to take a step back and go, ‘OK, the world has shifted, what does this mean for me now? How can I adapt either our business model or the way I work to make sure that I actually get something positive out of this rather than just putting up the barricades?’
“We need to be adaptable to what’s in front of us, and that’s not easy to do. If we’ve had success at some stage, we tend to default back to what worked for us previously and, in a dynamic world, that doesn’t always work. A big thing for us at Mindflick is to make people more agile in their thinking so they can shift and change with what’s out there in front of them.”
For more information visit mindflick.co.uk
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