Parallels between the world of Business and Sport are often drawn and lessons learned on the field are often highly relevant when you are working in the field. This should not come as any surprise, it is a widely held belief that sport is an ideal arena to enhance the values of leadership, determination, focus, motivation and teamwork. What makes sport, as a model for success, so easily translatable to business?  And who says it will work as a templated solution?

Models of success upon which we base our decisions are a critical tool in all industries and perhaps none more so than biomedical research. Before embarking on costly clinical trials and bringing a treatment to market, scientists conduct research in vitro (in glass) on the cellular level or increasingly, in silico (Computer Simulation). These models are relatively inexpensive and allow for freedom for experimentation without a fear of failure, allowing for the development of treatments that are likely to be effective and equally important; safe.

The accuracy of the models that scientists use to inform their decisions is vitally important. We need look no further than British Biotech, a company with a sound concept to develop a new treatment aimed at disabling one of the proteins most implicated in causing cancer to spread. Results based on their model were so promising that British Biotech amassed a value of $2.5Bn before clinical trials even began. Unfortunately, the results seen in their model failed to translate into an effective treatment for patients, clinical trials were abandoned and the company eventually ceased to exist. This cautionary tale highlights to us all, in all sectors that the models upon we base our decisions had best be accurate.

Sport and Business share a uniting fundamental principle. Neither are an exact science but both produce data that is precisely quantifiable; Points Scored, Wins, Turnover, Profit, Share Price, Return on Investment. A scientist’s delight of quantifiable data in a world of unquantifiable variables. The data for sport is rich and at our fingertips with models of success identified principally through the powerful selective pressure of competition. However, it is also important to appreciate that whilst behaviours of success in a sporting arena often translate to the workplace, it is important to consider limitations of the sport model, just as scientists must accommodate the limitations of an in vitro or in silico model.

Evidently, transposing a behaviour or treatment from even the most reliable and well developed models can fail to have the desired effect in real world application. In the training and performance sector, often individuals and companies determine a ‘recipe for success’ based upon a small pool of clients in which they have been successful.   The model is often templated to each and every client or potential client. The same slides, the same mindset, the same content. This of course is not the way we like to work.

Medicine has undergone a revolution, a new generation of therapies are being and have been produced based upon knowledge of an individual patient’s DNA to target a medicine that is uniquely effective for them where it may be harmful to others with the same disease. Each company, business or organisation has unique people, culture, mindset and values, their own DNA if you will. Science no longer tolerates a broad, generic approach to success, Is it not about time that training did the same?


Joseph Sutton

High Performance Consultant and PhD Research Student (Molecular Biology)

Genotype –

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