Here is an excerpt from an article written by Roger Martin for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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When Auburn’s Cam Newton was picked by the Carolina Panthers as the first overall selection in Thursday’s NFL Draft, he became the eighth quarterback to go number one in the last 10 years. While not all of those picks have worked out swimmingly for the teams in questions (see: JaMarcus Russell and the Oakland Raiders) the trend speaks to the allure of the superstar QB. Great NFL quarterbacks, like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, are a valuable commodity; they are the field generals that can lead their teams to Super Bowl victories.
By and large, NFL starting quarterbacks are tough, leaderly, and proud. They stare down blitzing linebackers and fleet-footed cornerbacks on the field and face a sea of microphones immediately after the game, win or lose. Those postgame press conferences can make for compelling viewing. In a win, the QB gives credit to his coach, his teammates, and notes the schemes and plays that made it possible. In defeat, he typically faults his own performance and tips his hat to the play of the opposing team.
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Why is it that what is inconceivable in football is standard in business? The answer is that compensation is largely based in the expectations market in business and is strictly based in the real market in football. CEOs have a large portion of their compensation based on the performance of their company in the stock market, so CEOs spend their time shaping and responding to expectations. Quarterbacks have no part of their compensation based on the performance of their team against the point spread, so they focus completely on winning games.
Football has figured this out a lot better than has business. Football focuses its key players on the real game; business focuses its key players on the expectations game. Football gets 100% useful activity from its key players; business has them engaging plenty of their time in non-value-adding activities, like talking to analysts. It is time business learned a few things from football.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Roger Martin is the Dean of the Rotman School of Management and the author of The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking, The Design of Business: How Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009), and his new book, Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL.