To raise the question of management supposes ultimately to be interested in the relation of man to work. The human being has a particularity that is characterized and defined by work, understood as an activity of creation. It is in particular the thesis developed by Hegel, in his famous “Dialectical of the Master and the slave”: stranger to the world, stranger to his human essence which belongs to the Master, stranger to himself, alien, the slave knows pure anguish.
Work is therefore anguish transformed into activity and it is for this reason that it is the essence of man insofar as it enables him to be released from his fear. The object of this argument is not to defend the idea of work as poetic expression of man and an end in itself because, as the Latin origin of the term underlines, it is also sorrow, drudgery, labour. Hésiode , or later Rousseau , showed perfectly that work has nothing natural in itself: in the state of nature we would tend to be idler than active. Man does not work initially to control nature, realize his freedom abstractedly, achieve his redemption… No, it is the desire for wealth born of the observation of the other which precedes work and gives work its reason. It is “the real love” (as defined by Rousseau) which condemns the man to work.
In the same way, while many studies attest to its beneficial impact on the socialization and wellbeing of the individual, the “work” value is -in a society of leisure- being more and more questioned.
How to explain the topicality of this question and what impacts this can have on the perception and orientation given to the management of organisations?
The roots of the phenomenon are certainly to be sought in the Industrial Revolution that radically changed history: time has been accelerated. Thus, since Smith passing through Taylor, Schumpeter and Toyotism, the business world is driven by a constant search for performance and perpetual motion. In a certain manner, we could go as far as saying that the economic sphere took for itself the saying “Citius, Altius, Fortius” . The globalisation of the economy and the introduction of new technologies considerably accentuated this phenomenon, involving a redefinition of space and time.
However this experience is rather badly felt by and in company because it generates uncertainties, and is consequently, a source of increased pressure with regard to individuals having lost their reference marks.
Here is undoubtedly the principal challenge of management: to succeed in giving sense to the work of all the individuals composing the company so that their collective work is higher than the sum of their individual work.
From sport in the companies… to sport for the society.
Competitiveness being the watchword of the business world, it is natural that managers turned to sport in order to find ready to use answers and solutions. Indeed, is it not in the D.N.A. of sport to seek performance and exceed oneself? Thus the fashion is the parallelization of these two worlds . Nevertheless, if the short cut is easy, wouldn’t it be more interesting to bring these two spheres together? What could, therefore, be their junction point?
If one accepts the assumption that the main challenge of management is to give a sense, why then bend over backwards to find in sport a “performance” recipe applicable to the business world? The specificity of sports action makes it difficult to transpose any “sporting recipe” in the business world.
Yet, couldn’t we imagine the company taking inspiration form the world of sport in order to define a “modus vivendi” shared by all? Isn’t the very essence of sport, collective or individual, before even the search for performance, to be a vehicle, a mode of expression and of opening to oneself and others?
Gilles Lipovetsky  skillfully showed that “centered on himself, the post modern man has more and more difficulty to […] come out of himself, feel enthusiasm, be happy”. However is not sport, because it is an expression of the body and falls under instantaneous movement, a defense against this narcissistic society?
In and through sport, the company will be able to formulate a message, to convey a sense by bringing individuals closer while enabling them to come out of themselves. Thus, it can be a tool at the service of management allowing communication between services, departments, generations, subsidiary companies, by the emotion that it causes, the conviviality that surrounds it and values that it conveys.
More than performance, it is perhaps the ludic aspect and play that the company must seek in sport.
As paradoxical as that may appear -since much opposes play and work- it would seem that the ludic dimension of sport can answer the search for sense pursued as much by the organisations as by the individuals which compose them, and for this reason, make it possible to convey and to consolidate an identity. By adapting another sphere of expression, by developing the relationship with the body, the use of sport as a managerial tool by organisations could create confidence between their members and thus reaffirm and develop a form of collective conscience in opposition to the worship of individual performance.
Sport is certainly not a miracle tool but could however be a medium for “living together” in companies and for the society as a whole.
Article published in the Journals of the Institute for Sport and Management – January 2011
 Source: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1807, Phenomenology of Spirit .  Source: Hesiode, Work and Days.  Source: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1755, Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (in French " Discours sur l’Origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes").  Source: Olympic motto : « Faster, higher, stronger », topic studied in 2010 in the books IS&M Ulysse Voyage II  Source: Gilles Lipovetsky, 1983, L’Ere du vide : Essais sur l’individualisme contemporain, Editions Gallimard.