I have long held that I prefer to have all rowers in the boat rowing in unison, even if not necessarily in the perfect direction, rather than seeking the perfect direction and pushing all rowers to row hard (and independently). Depending on how one words this phrase, one can easily sway the argument one way or the other. In any event, I was seasonably and happily surprised to find, courtesy of the Economist article of March 31, “Rhythm and Blues,” that some academic research had also been poured into this very metaphor of management. Specifically applying his theory to the annual Oxbridge boat race, Mark de Rond, a management theorist from Cambridge’s Judge Business School — and Cambridge’s coach — favored a flamboyant well-liked rower over a stronger smoother rower believing he would get the most out of his crewmates. The trick of the selection is finding a careful balance between competitivity and co-operation. There is mention of supporting evidence in a Harvard Business Review article “which found that workmates prize amiability over ability, preferring the ‘loveable fool’ to the ‘competent jerk.'” It must have been quite gratifying for deRond as Cambridge won by more than a length in this year’s (153rd) race. I think the metaphor can easily lead into the notion of how good rock’n’roll bands need a good (flamboyant) drummer and base guitarist.

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