Super Bowls, Sports Analogies, and You

A liquor store in Atlanta is refusing to sell Boston Lager until after the Super Bowl. No harm done. Sam Adams Brewery and the liquor store both get great publicity from that one and people have their fun. The New England beers will be back on the shelf in a few more days.

Meanwhile, the Internet is awash in football analogies and Super Bowl mentions in order to ride the excitement and generate search engine hits.

But sport analogies aren’t just limited to play-off season. They permeate business talk. You’re supposed to walk onto the court with your head held high, leave it all on the field, and dominate. The goal is to inspire competitiveness, perseverance, and confidence. To tap the inner warrior and the calm, but fierce, leader. And, of course, the goal is to win. 

Therein lies the problem. Sports analogies fail us because, in business, the goal should not be to win. Not if the other guy has to lose. In business, the goal is win-win-win-win. You need your customers to win. You need your vendors to win. You need your employees to win. And you need to win along with them. Winning at someone else’s expense is the wrong mindset. With these four wins, your competitors become insignificant. Though in many cases, you want them to win too. This is why restaurants and furniture stores set up shop next door to each other. If you want to change the way customers buy, e.g., via the Internet or a cell phone, one company can not do it alone. If you want to sell electric cars, your competition is essential for creating the critical mass that leads to charging stations.

Win-lose mostly does not work once you get off the ice. Have fun with your sports teams, but, in the office, concentrate instead on cooperation and partnerships. Think win-win deals that include your customers, vendors, employees, and anyone else who shares your knowledge, skills, or mission.