Every March, the USA goes wild with something called "March Madness," a pair of college basketball tournaments. The format of the tournaments is called "single elimination," which means that candidate teams are dropped out of the tournament when they lose. Eventually, one team remains, and they are the "winners."
So, what is the overall effect of this type of tournament? The men's tournament starts with 64 of the best teams in the nation, and when all is done, 63 of them have become "losers." No matter how good their season's record may have been, they ended that season with a loss—something to remain on their minds until next year.
I enjoy watching March Madness, but I think it could be improved. At least, there could be another tournament with a much more satisfactory result. Here's how it would go:
First, we choose the 64 worst teams of the season. Then we pair them off to play one another. The winner of each game is dropped out of the tournament, and the losers are paired for the next round.
This elimination of winners is continued until only one team remains. They are the winners of the tournament. And, notice, that every other team has ended their season with a victory. Doesn't that feel much better?
Now perhaps this sounds like a stupid idea, but in fact it's extremely popular in the business world. Managers devise award systems that select one or a few individuals (rarely teams) as "winners." In doing so, they have managed to make everyone else feel like "losers."
I guess the theory is the these "losers" will be motivated to work harder or smarter for the next award cycle, and I suppose that sometimes that happens. What I've seen, however, is quite the opposite. Most people respond to "losing" by losing their motivation in the next round.
I've noticed that many of these management awards are given at the end of each year. Maybe a few smart managers could come up with not a March Madness but a December Dementia system that would positively motivate all their employees.