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Teamwork -- in sports and business

  • Story Highlights
  • New tie-up between business school and rugby team
  • Both school and team aim to learn lessons from each other
  • Parallel book says rugby-style teamwork can help executives
  • Next Article in World Business »
By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It might be news to people in countries where the sport is unknown, but the rugby world cup is currently big news -- especially in France, hosting the event until October 20.

Individuals and a team - the U.S. takes on Samoa in the rugby world cup.

What, you might say, has that got to do with business education? Well, according to one leading business school, quite a lot.

Grenoble School of Management in the south-eastern French city of the same name, has just signed a deal with the city's rugby team for a series of events and programs intended to benefit both parties.

The rugby club will assist the business school in creating a series of programs connected to marketing and sport, with club executives even presenting a series of case studies to students.

Equally, the club will attempt to benefit from the school's management expertise with a series of initiatives including conferences and internships.

Taking the rugby theme still further, two faculty members from the school have co-authored a book with a leading rugby coach which attempts to draw management and business lessons from the way the sport is played.

Rugby union -- to give the sport its proper title -- is played with an American football-style oval ball, which is both kicked and thrown, but there the similarities end.

While a star quarterback can hoist a football the length of the field for a touchdown, the equivalent in rugby -- a try -- needs more teamwork than individual inspiration.

While in play, the ball cannot be thrown forwards, only behind, meaning tries are generally scored through a complex series of sideways passes, each player running forwards a few yards before bringing a team mate into play.

Another well-known feature of the game, the scrum, also requires careful co-operation, as players crouch and link arms to push against the other team in a carefully choreographed circle, into which the ball is thrown.

The book sees the authors - Franšois Leccia and Lo´ck Roche from the Grenoble school, and Jacques Delmas, coach of the double French championship-winning Biarritz rugby team -- make a series of comparisons between the sport and business.

Fact Box

FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Columbia, U.S.
3. Harvard, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. London Business School, UK
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Insead, France/Singapore
8. Stern, NYU, U.S.
9. Tuck, Dartmouth, U.S.
10. Yale, U.S.
Source: Financial Times 2007

They "explain how team spirit, reacting to victories and defeats, making the right pass at the right time etc, can be used in the business world," a Grenoble school spokeswoman said.

"The authors argue that just like in rugby, for a business to be successful it needs the performance of each individual but also a team that 'plays' together."

While the choice of specific sport is novel, there has been consistent crossover between sports and business schools in recent years.

As chronicled previously in Executive Education, a series of leading US schools arrange seminars for National Football League (NFL) players.

The NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, as it is officially known, is organized by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to help athletes prepare for life after football.

In a different vein, this month the first batch of students at London's Cass Business School have just begun studying for a special EMBA aimed at would-be commercial managers in the different sport known to Europeans as football, otherwise called soccer.

It is being led by Cass's Professor Chris Brady, known as the 'Footy Prof' after writing a book called "The 90-Minute Manager," which uses football for examples of good and bad management. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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