The power of stories to endure

Posted by  Paul Joosten —June 7, 2014
Filed in Business storytelling

By Paul Joosten, an Anecdote Partner based in the Netherlands

‘In our company, I like to work with people who have the courage to make mistakes!’

So said the new Vice President of Oracle Northern Europe, Ad Nederlof, in his kick-off speech in June 1994.

Was he serious? Did I hear him right? We worked at Oracle, after all, a company that played to win, not to fail.

Nederlof went on to tell us about a football match that had been played some weeks before in the Spanish league. It was the final day of the season, and both Barcelona and Deportivo de La Coruña were in the running to win La Liga. Deportivo had to win their game against Valencia to clinch the championship.

In the last minutes of the match, Deportivo got a penalty. But it seemed that there was no-one in the team who dared to take that kick. The side’s habitual penalty taker, Donato, had already been substituted, and their second-best option, Bebeto, refused the responsibility. The other players were apparently all trying to walk away from it too.

The power of stories to endure

But then a sweeper, Miroslav Djukic, took the ball and placed it on the spot. He took nine steps backward, then walked up to the ball and kicked it. And he missed… The match remained a 0–0 draw. As a result, FC Barcelona were crowned La Liga champions.

The Oracle employees in the theatrette listened very attentively to this story. The message was clear.

Twenty years later, I went to an alumni meeting with ex-Oracle people and it was amazing to hear how this story was still being told. No-one could remember anything of the fiscal details of mid-1994. No-one remembered what our plans had been, or what the strategic guidelines were.

But everyone remembered Deportivo de La Coruña, and that one player who had the courage to fail.

Paul Joosten About  Paul Joosten

Based in the Netherlands Paul has a long track record of helping leaders and salesfolk hit their targets. He helps them be persuasive with stories. Connect with Paul on:


  1. Clare Conroy says:

    This is a great story! It reminds me of the Wayne Gretzky quote – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Thanks for sharing. Have added it to my ‘story bank’!

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