Sport and Consciousness

In Must Be a Good Team Player, I suggested that software managers would prefer to hire David Beckham to Richard Stallman, because Beckham is a good team player and Stallman is very much the Unreasonable Man. I now realize that this is not quite right. (Rather than make an Orwellian revision of my original article, I've added this one. Recognizing you're wrong isn't enough: you have to remember why you were wrong and learn from the experience.)

Of course, Beckham (my argument applies equally to any other world- class team sportsman) is a good team player, but not in the sense your typical management droid intends it. What they want is someone who is compliant, thinks the same as everyone in the group, and generally blends in. This doesn't, in general, apply to people who play sports as well as he plays football.

It also occurred to me that Beckham (and good sports players in general) and Stallman (and good hackers in general) have a lot more in common than I originally realized. When they practise what they do well, be it football or computer programming, they get into a state of mind known variously as The Zone, Flow, and Hack Mode, during which their egos dissolve and they become at one with the activity. Footballers might have big egos off the pitch, but the good ones leave theirs in the changing room during the match.

The Zone couldn't be more different from the groupthink exhibited by team members in modern offices.

This page was linked to from

and was last updated on 2006-01-03 at 20:56.

© Copyright Donald Fisk 2006