About 6,000 athletes from 85 countries are heading to Sochi to compete in nearly 90 sports. Since only three medals are awarded in each event, the vast majority of competitors will go home with only memories.
David Rubinstein, a clinical associate professor of management at IU's Kelley School of Business, notes that many of today's top companies use the Olympic model in building institutional solidarity and longevity. The games also demonstrate that underdogs sometimes do come out on top.
"Human capital is very valuable," Rubinstein said. "When an underdog competitor achieves the spotlight -- regardless of outcome -- it sends a message to everyone on the nation’s team that 'I can do great -- or better -- when I try harder.'
"Likewise, in any firm, there are prima donnas and show horses, and others who are 'Steady-Eddie' plow horses. But humans are more than they are defined to be. In the heat of competition, winners can emerge from unexpected places. When an underdog achieves the spotlight, the abilities of all of the organization’s members become heightened.
"For all the precious gold medals that brighten a nation’s medal points total, it is often that one extra bronze medal that pushes the nation to the top," he added. "In organizations, success often depends on whether the ‘little guy’ steps forward or steps back."
Rubinstein can be reached at 812-855-5945 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He teaches strategy in IU's Kelley School of Business and was named by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of the top professors in 2006. For additional assistance, contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or email@example.com.