As an ice breaker for the Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED course I taught the other day, I asked about their March Madness brackets. Answers included:
- I don't want to talk about it, and
- I’m not following it.
While listening to their responses, I was struck by how the progression of a bracket over the life of the NCAA tournament mimics the effect of market place chaos.
Following the analogy of chaos theory to March Madness, business leaders make decisions and adjust strategic plans to either gain or retain an advantage over their competitors. These decisions are based on knowledge of internal circumstances, the current market conditions, past performance, and the risk/probability of other known and unknown factors.
For the NCAA teams, the known factors are their team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and a study of what they believe are the same for their opponents. Business is no different.
In most cases, the higher tournament seeded teams (or larger competitors) spend more time preparing to play other higher seeded teams than the #14, #15, or #16 (smaller competitors).
After all, the higher the seed, the better the team, and the better the probability of winning, right?
Not always…just ask #3Duke about their loss to #14 Mercer in the first round of the tournament. Now chaos ensues for the other higher seeded teams who had spent more time preparing to face Duke later in the tournament, and less time preparing for the possibility of facing Mercer.
From a business perspective, interacting with competitors is a common occurrence and decisions - or chaos - made by one competitor often affect the others like a ripple on an otherwise smooth stream of water. Other times, the ripple quickly becomes a tidal wave.
For example, the volatility of world markets can have a profound effect on any business, large or small. Consider the level of chaos that ensued during the 2013 financial crisis in Cyprus when the government announced it would tax all Cyprian bank accounts as a means of propping up the banking system, and qualifying for emergency loans from world financial bodies.
Up until then, the thought of a tax on banking accounts insured by federal governments was inconceivable. The possibility, although highly unlikely, now exists and businesses all over the world, regardless of size must include this scenario in their financial crisis management planning.
In short, good business leaders have the innate ability to identify and act on opportunities created by chaos. They are able to do so because they plan well, and take both the conceivable and inconceivable into consideration.
With the chaos caused by all of the Cinderella teams enjoying the Dance this year, only one of my five bracket entries really has any hope left. Interestingly enough, it’s the bracket I thought was the least likely to succeed.
How is your bracket doing?
Before founding her own consulting firm, Dawn Gannon served as a respected management professional in the military, higher education, and healthcare fields for 25 years. As a Lean/Six Sigma Green Belt, Dawn’s commitment and personal mission to improve the lives of others through service to the community focuses on providing administrative and volunteer management, consumer education, public outreach, event planning, relationship-building efforts, and strategic planning. She is the author of the Management in Motion blog, and has written a number of articles for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association on the topic of childfree living.