March Madness: The productivity myth and why small business owners should love office pools.

Instead of worrying about lost productivity, business owners should see the annual March Madness College Basketball Tournament for what it is — the perfect gift-wrapped opportunity to maximize collisions.Office pools are perfect for increasing collisions. When else can the quiet guy from accounting brag about his Cincinnati Bearcats?

Office pools already create conversations and sparks that rarely happen, but they can be amplified even more. Here are some options.

  1. The skill-swap office pool

One example of using March Madness to actually increase employee engagement and camaraderie is the skill-swap office pool.It’s a simple tweak. Instead of throwing in the typical $10 entry fee, each person instead donates a skill. It could be anything they’re good at from singing lessons to how to build a blog.The skills are posted publicly, so everyone learns more about their colleagues. When the tournament is over, the winner of the pool gets first choice of the available skills. Second place gets second choice and so on. Even last place wins something.Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone wins.

  1. The field trip

Everyone streaming online video can cause bandwidth problems and IT headaches. So, instead of everyone hiding the games in a browser behind a presentation deck or spreadsheet, bring teams together to watch the games, out in the open.Teams can work from laptops in separate breakout rooms where the games are on actual TVs, or have the team take over a local sports bar with good WiFi.

  1. The alma mater match

Everyone writes down either their alma mater or their favorite team.If your chosen team is not in the tournament, you get matched with a team that has the closest match of mascots (e.g. Kentucky Wildcats and Arizona Wildcats) or by the closest match to team colors.Now, each employee has a spot in the actual bracket, so it isn’t just Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss. It’s Bill vs. Shelly.Watch bracket games together with your mascot-match and your alma-mater “opponent”. Single games can have friendly side bets (perhaps the loser fills out both TPS reports for a month) and the overall tournament can have some type of prize incentives.

Customize the specific details to fit your organization. The goal remains the same: more collisions. Everyone will meet new people and learn about their coworkers.

So, stop the madness. This March, ignore the lost productivity studies. See the office pool as a golden opportunity — not for distraction, but to connect and engage with colleagues.