Business and sport both have to deal with random variables but the approaches taken in either can dramatically affect the way in which we think about our objectives. In this article we look at the way in which variables can put people in the wrong frame of mind and how best to take advantage.
Sport is often a great foil for business. Apart from the fact that it is business itself the part that gets played out in the arena is supposed to be variable free. Reducing random noise from sports is the whole point of the exercise. No excuses. Only winners and losers. Both teams or individual will face the same weather conditions, have the same specification equipment, face the same umpire, with the same rules applying to both sides. There are, however, unavoidable variables present in sport. If we look at a typical game of soccer we can see that important variables could be refereeing mistakes, adverse weather conditions, player injuries prior to the game etc. Every effort is made in sport to make the playing fields as fair and equal as possible yet games are routinely won and lost based on these random factors.
So, what of business? There isn’t nearly as much effort made to ensure that business is played on such level playing fields. Regualtion is the rules, whilst government is the referee but these factors can often have only nascent impact on how business is conducted. Take, for example, the way in which banks were conducting business prior to 2008 endangering both the economies and their own balance sheets.
Businesses currently seem to find all random variables conspiring against them. Things like the rise of the internet shopper, the state of the global economy, the introduction of vast shopping centres designed to centralise all retail in one place. These are changing the way in which business is conducted and the way we think about the targets we are set and the money to be made.
However, it must be said, variables are not nearly the terrible thing they are made out to be. They often have us talking of unfairness but the reality is that if we think in the right way we can use variables to aid us not to hinder us.
In sport if the referee is an important variable (and he or she is) then we must find ways to manipulate that variable for our own gain. Although it may seem like mangers are hiding behind refereeing mistakes when they blame referees for their calls during a game, the truth is they are merely attempting to seek out a competitive advantage over their rivals. Weather conditions are merely an advantage for teams that practise playing in adverse conditions, injuries a prompt to improve training methods and squad rotation. In truth there are really very few variables in sport that can’t be put to good use in seeking an advantage over a rival.
If we then take that attitude to business we can see that the business that learns how to dominate the internet will have an instant competitive advantage over its rivals. High Streets may well be losing shoppers but this gives businesses the impetus to think about the way it handles its existing customers and whether there are new products it can consider introducing.
For sport and business alike, variables can be scary but if thought about in the proper way they can really be a driver for competitive advantage.
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