Bernard Avishai

A company used to be like a football team, in which only senior managers, like quarterbacks, saw the whole field, and most everybody else performed a single, drudge task. Your plays (that is, your product lines) were mostly set for the long season; the few times you got close to the goal you had better score. Bigness mattered.

Now a company has to be more like a basketball team — or really an alliance of basketball teams — lean, versatile, disciplined in spontaneity. Marketing, design and production people take on problems together; senior managers must lead like a point guard. Real-time communication is key, and it must be horizontal, not just vertical. Networks are replacing hierarchy. The corporate office I run looks more like a holding company, a teaching center and a bank than it does a command center.

By the way, a football team can have too many Dan Marinos. A basketball team can never have too many Michael Jordans, and has no room at all for a 300-pound, barely educated tackle.

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