The revival in Detroit’s fortunes

The Lex column of the Financial Times today carried a cute comparison of the resurgence of the Tigers and the restructuring going on at GM and Ford. It raised the question over whether any lessons can be transferred from sporting success to success in other businesses. On the face of it there ought to be some carry overs. Successful teams are usually characterised by cohesion, purpose and high levels of skills employed in the execution of a well laid plan. Any business that could manage to achieve these things ought to be successful. Certainly, retired head coaches can make a very health living out of claiming to offer insights into successful team building.

In fact, the Sports Economist’s very own Brian Goff published an interesting book last year on the lessons for management from sports (From the Ballfield to the Boardroom) which has an account of both the relevant and irrelevant lessons from sports management. My own take is that managing professional sports has a lot in common with management of other high profile, high earning environments-such as movie studios and bond trading- and less relevance for car manufacture. for most of us, the business problem is way less taxing than sport. The difference between peak and almost peak performance in the World Series is the difference between immortality and oblivion; if I teach my classes just a little bit better, nobody is likely to pay too much attention.

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Author: Stefan Szymanski

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