What March Madness Taught Me About Business

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The first two games of the NCAA tournament were completed by the time my colleagues and I sat in a booth over a hamburger. I was not so gently chided for not getting around to filling out my bracket. I had intended to make my picks, much like I “intend” to do every year, but I just never get around to it. As the deadline loomed before the first game, I was even reminded by a member of the executive team to get on the stick, but I was “in the zone” doing something else. By the time I was ready to give it my attention, it was too late.

It’s not that I’m anti basketball; in fact, I really like basketball. I don’t even mind a little good-natured gambling from time to time. I think I’ve just created a bad habit of thumbing my nose at March Madness.

Like practically everyone I know, I’ve read Challenger Gray & Christmas’ $1.8 billion in lost productivity statistics. I’m sure there are even business owners who are all worked up about it too, I just don’t happen to work for one of them. A live feed of one of the games is being broadcast in our cafeteria as we speak. What’s more, I just left a meeting with our CEO where he turned the game off with the famous “Boss Button” on ESPN as I entered his office.

I’m sure there is a little bit of time wasting going on right now. However, there’s a lot of team building going on too. People who seldom have the opportunity to interact are talking about their brackets, their favorite teams, and discovering things they have in common with their colleagues in other departments. It’s hard for me to identify this as a bad thing.

March Madness aside, I have friends whose employers work very hard to clamp down on “distractions” like social media sites and other websites. Although their employees might appear to have their collective noses to the grindstone, unless they confiscate every smart phone at the door, those who want to check their Facebook or check on their tournament brackets will just do it on their phones. We might as well embrace reality and make it a company team-building opportunity.

Regarding my lack of participation in this year’s Madness, my wife would claim I’m anti-social, not anti-basketball. I don’t think that’s right either, but I was told over lunch that I had no claim to participate in any March Madness matchup conversations because I didn’t bother to get my bracket done.

I ask you, who is anti-social?

A couple of years ago Darren Rovell challenged the notion that a lot of time is wasted by folks at work who are glued to the game. “Every day is filled with moments that we are doing something that our employers technically might not be paying us for,” he writes.

For example, my team regularly plays pingpong during the lunch hour and we don’t always stop exactly when the lunch hour ends.

There are those who even suggest that all this game watching, water cooler discussing, and bracket betting adds to workplace productivity. Rovell cites a social psychologist, Don Forsyth, a professor at the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership studies, who suggests that employers could actually learn more about their employees by the way they fill out their brackets.

“You could tell how each person made decisions, how they exhibited bias, whether their choices were rational or irrational, if they used mathematical analysis or if they picked based on emotion,” Forsyth said.

I’m not sure I even want to know what it says about me.

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.

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Ty Kiisel is a contributing author focusing on small business financing at OnDeck, a technology company solving small business’s biggest challenge: access to capital. With over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business, Ty shares personal experiences and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible. OnDeck can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.