A Core Value of Pride in Winning: The All Blacks’ Team Culture and Legacy

Review by: William A. Harper
By Tom Johnson; Andrew John Martin; Farah Palmer; Geoffrey Watson; Phil Ramsey

The Big Idea

In the so-called olden days “to win” meant the struggle, not the outcome.  In this research paper, we find a bit of both meanings.  For the subject of this study is the remarkable winning legacy of New Zealand’s men’s national representative All Blacks rugby team.  Since its inception in 1903 the All Blacks’ winning record is 77%.  By any account and compared to any sports teams or franchises—amateur or professional—the All-Blacks may be the most successful organization in the history of modern sport.

These researchers were interested in examining the key values of the All Blacks in sustaining their successful organizational culture.  After all, it is the case that very few sport team organizations even approach 70% wins over a 50-year competitive history.  Brazilian football, for example, has a 63.5% winning record in FIFA competition.

The All Blacks’ record flies in the face of Danny Miller’s Icarus Paradox (1990) thesis on why sustaining success in sport is so difficult:  success generates complacency, and complacency in turn generates falling from the heights of success.  The All Blacks’ record even challenges one of Nobel Prize-winning researcher Daniel Kahneman’s ideas in Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011).  Kahneman argues that success is a combination of talent and luck; great success is a little more talent and a lot more luck. He maintains that because of the luck factor, winning in the long haul is destined to inevitably fading from the front as sport teams and athletes regress toward the mean.  Not so for the All Blacks.