March Madness and the Science Behind Team Cultures

In the last several years, the concept of organizational culture has become increasingly popular in the professional and amateur sports. Nearly every time there is a discussion or interview about the success of a new coach, there are quotes about the new coaching “changing the team culture” or “building the team culture.” With March Madness getting under way, many of us will find ourselves imagining what it would be like to participate in this exciting event and perhaps wondering in which programs and for what coaches we’d most like to play. We’ve outlined the top three qualities for a team win anywhere from the court or in the board room:

Degree of Structure

Organizations vary in the degree to which they standardize work processes and roles. Some organizations are highly standardized and often achieve tremendous efficiency because of it. Other organizations allow for greater variation in how work gets done, believing that standardization can be the enemy of agility and innovation.

Leadership Style

Cultures are often formed and strengthened based on the personality and leadership style of the founder or CEO. That leader’s style can become the prototype for leadership in the organization, with many different styles leading to success in different situations. For example, some leaders inspire others through their passion and energy, while other leaders are respected for their calm, thoughtful, and poised approach during difficult or stressful times. While, both approaches to leadership can lead to success it is important to remember the effectiveness of leadership is entirely dependent on how the members of the team react to it.

Successful Tradition

Organizations with an established track record of success are appealing to job applicants because they expect a relatively stable environment and to learn the skills that led to this success. Other applicants are attracted to organizations who lack that successful tradition but who are clearly poised to make a splash in the industry, because they may prefer a more entrepreneurial culture and to be part of building a successful organization.


We thought we’d make this connection between organizational/team culture and sports by asking for your opinions in this quiz about the type of company culture which you would prefer to work, and using that information to predict (unscientifically) which of 8 NCAA tournament teams would be the best fit for you in your fantasy March Madness experience. If your favorite team is not included, or if the quiz lands you on your alma mater’s archrival, we apologize. Hey, it’s a fantasy–you can always transfer. May you all find your one shining moment!!