Director of the Dirección de Proyectos programme at EADA Business School
That many sports have become very big business is unfortunately all too obvious. Scandals in voting for Championship locations, unreasonably high salaries of players, television rights, putting profits over people, etc. Those cases almost get more attention than the games by themselves. In this particular aspect, I guess that in business we should mainly look at the sports world in order to learn how NOT to do things.
However, since I prefer the more productive idea of looking forward in a positive way, I think it’s much more interesting to look at the brighter side of things, in this case those aspects of sports that can actually serve as a GOOD example for business.
My book The Perfect Pass is based precisely on that idea: using the language of sports in general, or in this case football in particular, to talk about business principles like strategy, big picture, alignment and coherence. With the manager in the central role of having to make things move forward, like the trainer in football.
Sports and business: the main parallelisms
But of course, there are much more parallelisms between sports and business than those more “technical” aspects of preparing a season, preparing a game, playing it, doing the post-game evaluation and then prepare for the next game. Think for example of team dynamics, making a team grow above its own technical capabilities (think of the “Simeone effect” that has been so brilliantly visible in the Spanish Primera División this year). Or of the medium to long-term view of keeping players motivated constantly year after year, in an environment that in itself doesn’t change that much, for instance by constantly bringing in “fresh” new players, in order to keep everyone sharp (think of the problems in F.C. Barcelona’s first team this year).
Or of the change in results at Manchester United, from the moment that Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as a trainer after 25+ years of duty at the very highest level. Or even, applying to top managers the methods that the elite athletes use to get and keep themselves in shape physically and mentally for the great games and tournaments: balanced diets, rest, a healthy spread of activities between intensive training and disconnecting from it. And a large list of etcetera’s.
Despite of the fact that business is far more complex, the sports world proves us to provide a wealth of examples that we can productively use to improve our business practice
I don’t want to claim that running a business or a department can be put equal to playing a game of sports, that would really be far too simplistic and I’m quite sure that business in a global context is far more complex. However, time and again, the sports world proves us to provide a wealth of examples that we can productively use to improve our business practice. By providing a common frame of reference that many people can relate to, by being an inspiration, by delivering a great anecdote to explain something important to staff members…
Even though I probably by far will not see all of the World Championships of Soccer in Brazil (it’s only football after all…), I’m still looking forward to see some of the games, I’m quite sure to see many things happen that will catch my attention, inspire me and provide me with a good number of analogies for use in my classes in EADA afterwards.
Know more about the new master of EADA, Master en Alto Rendimiento Directivo, which will explore the parallelisms between business leadership and competitive sport:
By Ed Weenk