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Will March Madness torpedo the economy?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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NCAA and Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge logo (Credit: NCAA/Capital One via Facebook)

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament began last Thursday.  It is estimated that more than 60 million Americans have completed tournament brackets predicting the winners and losers.  Across the country, employees are spending workday time monitoring games, and discussing predictions and results with colleagues.  Many are waging bets.

According to one estimate, the cost of lost wages paid to unproductive and distracted employees could reach as high as $1.9 billion.  Stacked as one dollar bills, that amount would reach 129 miles into the sky, more than half the way to the International Space Station.  That’s a lot of money.

However, Forbes contributor Lee Igel believes that our concerns are a bit outdated.  In the Industrial Age, manual manufacturing was the backbone of the economy.  Effectiveness and efficiency were essentially measured in the same way—by material output produced by employees.  It was relatively easy to measure the number of transmissions manufactured in a given hour.  Anything that distracted employees from their work on the assembly line threatened the company bottom line.

Today, however, much of our economy is based on what Peter Drucker called “knowledge work.”  Such work entails more employee autonomy and emphasizes quality over quantity.  So long as employees are doing their work well, Igel thinks their supervisors should welcome the camaraderie March Madness enhances.

Efficiency is not always effectiveness.  Yesterday’s performance metrics may not fit today’s context.  Success is what matters, in business and in life.  But it’s hard to measure success if we can’t define success.  And we can’t define success if we don’t know what criteria of success to adopt.

By the criteria of materialistic consumerism, possessions define our success.  By the criteria of public opinion, popularity defines our success.  By the criteria of perfectionistic performance, achievements define our success.  (March Madness is Exhibit A.)

What is God’s definition of success for us? (Tweet this)

Here was Paul’s answer: “Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:9).  In Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest, we read: “I have to learn to relate everything to the master ambition, and to maintain it without any cessation.  My worth to God in public is what I am in private.  Is my master ambition to please Him and be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how noble?”

What is your “master ambition” today?