Sports metaphors can absolutely be useful when applied to any business endeavor, but there are many instances in which the concept of business as sport becomes too pervasive and leads to negative consequences that should have been easily avoided. Striking the ideal balance is critical, which is why John Pryor has taken the time to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of some of the more commonly applied sports metaphors.
The Benefits of the Sports Metaphor
The strength of leadership and the quality of work produced by a group of highly cooperative team members represent critical components of the success or failure of any business, and those prone to thinking of business as sport will quickly draw the parallel between the role of the coach in motivating their athletes. Certain qualities that make sports coaches and managers successful leaders are indeed applicable to business situations, as the clear communication of a company’s goals and its expectations of team members are of significant benefit to the organization as a whole. While true, there is a danger in any business executive conceiving of their role as parallel to that of a coach or manager in sports.
The Drawbacks of the Sports Metaphor
Sports are most often conceived of as an endeavor in which there is always an opponent to be bested, which leads to the inaccurate perception of business as a similarly competitive endeavor in which everything is a zero-sum game. This leads to many organizations trying to quickly “build a winner” in order to reach the top of their industry, but there are long-term costs that go unconsidered as a result. Instead of focusing on creating a sustainable model for long-term growth, these organizations favor an unsustainable approach that will yield short-term glory. It’s important for businesses and business leaders to realize that the goals of a sports team vary wildly from those of a business organization.