The Winning Way by cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle and wife, Anita Bhogle reminds one of the saying, ‘old wine in a new bottle.’
Review by Chitra Iyer
Unfortunately, ‘New’ doesn’t necessarily mean interesting or refreshing. I am being generous with the word ‘New’ only because there have not been too many books that draw a parallel between sports and management in the Indian context.
The Winning Way: Learnings From Sport For Managers has 3 core themes – Winning, Leadership and Teams. However, the authors jump from one to the other randomly, jerkily and without being able to build a cohesive line of thought for the reader. Several concepts are repeated in a haphazard manner throughout the book. Better editing would have made it easier for the reader to focus on the core concepts and takeaways. One cannot help feeling that one is hovering superficially over deep waters – the constant jumping around and sheer volume of points made reduces complex concepts like winning and leadership into seemingly one-dimensional phenomena.
For example, in a book about winning, the very concept of winning deserves some reflection. What is winning? Perhaps, for a company it is winning in the market place, and all else is secondary. However, mentioning certain personalities, some commendable and some questionable, as examples that inspire true winners – while spending only one page on ethics is almost scary; is this the one-dimensional version of winning that youngsters will pick up and try to emulate? Instances of integrity that so many great champions have demonstrated- both on and off the sporting field – are largely ignored. If the authors had access to so many sporting greats, it would have been wonderful to know what winning meant to them or how their notion of winning had evolved over their careers. This could have brought some perspective to the conversation around winning.
The chapter on learning from failure seems confused. While trying to convey that failure is not a bad thing, they title the chapter ‘Learning from Losing’, thus subconsciously reinforcing the belief that failure equals losing. However they do make a useful acknowledgement of glossing over failure and looking for convenient scapegoats vs. analyzing failure and learning from it in a healthy way. The first lesson that many young managers learn is ‘cover your a**’. This effectively kills any appetite for risk that they may have had, leading in the long run, to our poor record of game-changing innovations.
The take on leadership too seems one-dimensional and contradictory. In this narrative, leadership is something that anointed leaders demonstrate – all the examples are of leadership traits displayed by Captains and CEOs. Yet, they go on to make the point that the Eastern style of leadership is quite hierarchical or feudal! Young readers may have appreciated examples of leadership traits displayed by young team members – to demonstrate leadership in everyday behaviour irrespective of designation.
On the plus side, some of the concepts that I did find of interest were – positive turbulence, the art of re-framing goals and performance vs. results. On reading some legendary stories from sporting history, even a non-sports buff like me felt the goose bumps.
That said, this book rambles, leaving you tired and unfulfilled at the end and at a complete loss on the point the authors are trying to make because there is a new one made every 50 words! At best, it can be viewed as a useful reminder of some global pearls of wisdom or an enjoyable collection of sporting anecdotes. But the staccato way it simplifies, spoon-feeds and flits from one concept to another, without ever inviting or challenging the reader to think or reflect – simply produces a gimmicky special effects show-reel.
Publisher: Westland Books/Tranquebar Press
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