Thursday, June 03, 2010

ultiMBAte Frisbee

ultiMBAteBP, Goldman Sachs, and Massey could learn a lot from ultimate frisbee [CSM . 6.2.10]

The BP oil spill is just the latest example of questionable corporate action that's prompted calls for stronger government regulation. Yet the more profound reform would come from absorbing the lessons of a game with no referees.

...The harm those companies caused is anything but a game. But let's inject a bit of levity into an otherwise dire set of circumstances and look to one game for guidance: ultimate frisbee. The fast-growing sport (with some 700 college teams in the US alone) is like soccer with aerial passing but without referees. Players are expected to call their own fouls – and do. Even at collegiate and world championships, players hand the Frisbee to the other team if they've had unnecessary contact with an opposing player or held the disc for longer than the allowed 10 seconds – whether or not someone else calls them on it.

This ethos is known as the "spirit of the game." I've played ultimate throughout the US, Europe, and Asia, and can confirm that the spirit of the game reigns everywhere. Business would do well to learn from it.

Here's a simple way to align business and societal interests: Require that bankers and other titans of industry join a weekend ultimate frisbee game in their local park. They'll spend a few hours in a world where there are no designated enforcers but everyone follows the rules – not just in letter, but in spirit. That would benefit us all.

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