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An alternative sports metaphor for understanding teamwork as complex: Soccer
Volume: 11, Issue 2
As critiques of and dislike for organizational teamwork increase, alternatives must be sought for both pedagogy and practice. Competitive sports metaphors are often used in management practice and teaching; unfortunately, these tend to reflect distinctly American values of zero-sum competition, cybernetic, error-correcting efficiency, individualistic success, therefore de-emphasizing what (American) organizational teamwork needs most: creativity, innovation, genuine autonomy and inventiveness. This is precisely what makes both the pedagogy and practice ineffective. This essay proposes the game of soccer as an alternative metaphor and heuristic device. I contend that both organizational teamwork and soccer are quantum phenomena. Specifically, I demonstrate how soccer teamwork is nonlinear, holonic, emergent and engaged, and articulate those concepts with extant, conventional understandings of teamwork in organizations. My hope for the essay is that the soccer metaphor will inspire a more complex understanding of organizational teamwork as a collaborative (rather than simply cooperative or coordinated) activity.