Friday, October 7, 2011

Business School and Sports Analogies: Inseparable

Touchdowns Home Runs and and Goals, Oh My!
“You miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take.” While this expression could easily apply to World of Warcraft or photography, I usually understood it as referring to basketball. Turns out, the speaker of this quote was Wayne Gretzsky, so I still had it wrong. In business school, however, I have ample opportunity to learn about sports. It’s seemingly inescapable, especially now in the season I used to know as fall. Now I know it by it’s rightful name: football season.

Sports references abound both outside and inside the classroom. In the hallways I hear murmurings about Antonio Gates, Chad Ochocinco, and Tony Romo echoing off the walls. Between, and I imagine during, classes, fantasy stats are being checked, adjusted, and discussed. Study sessions often feature the undulating cheers and constant chatter of a football game on TV. But students are not the only ones obsessed with sports. Professors will use basketball stars in problem sets and ask us to calculate standard deviation for high school track race times. Teamwork is taught in the framework of a sports team using inspirational sports movies as examples of the stages of team development. These references play, pardon the pun, to the interests of many business school students, but not all.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy sports. I played two of them in high school. But I’ve also played in a band. I’ve been part of the cast of a musical play. I’ve performed dance routines with a group. All these activities have granted me the opportunity to be part of a team as well as a leader. But where are all the arts analogies in business school? Why not try “Most people live with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try,” by Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. Or “As good as I am, I’m nothing without my band,” Steven Tyler. How about calculating the standard deviation of beats per minute across musical genres or the number of words per sentence in a Hemingway novel? Professors sometimes start class by playing a song, which I greatly appreciate, but don’t let it stop there. If Wake Forest is truly attempting to foster an inclusive environment for all its students, we should consider expanding the topics of conversation beyond just sports.

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