After the heavy lifting of Monday, distilling the main messages of the FCA Business Plan, I thought I'd use this week's article to digress slightly.

A few weeks ago, we had a reunion of an Oxford Boat Race crew from 30 years ago. We don't do this often enough and it was a special day - a long one, starting with an 8am row - but I scarcely stopped smiling...

The reunion left me reflecting how rowing, and sport in general, has changed since 1988 - how it has become more “business-like” and to what extent business has paralleled some of the same developments. 

Here are three trends to ponder...

1. More resources, higher standards: To give just one example, in 1986 I used to recharge the battery from the club minibus in my student house overnight. Unsurprisingly, that minibus broke down a few times, and there was a good deal of wasted time. Rightly or wrongly, we mostly didn't get angry, just shrugged and got on with it.

But looking back, 1988 a tipping point. Sponsorship was just coming into rowing in a much bigger way, and other sports were on the verge of their own, much larger, financial revolutions. Within 10 years, Olympic Lottery funding was up and running, Football's Premiership was part of the furniture and Rugby Union had gone professional. 

In sport, a lot of this was driven by a combination of globalization and media rights. In financial services it was the period of globalization, of consolidation in banking, of Big Bang and Basel I.

2. More science: it's easy to overstate this - sports psychology was already becoming a thing, and we were doing nutrition in rowing almost a decade before Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal - but the change since is still palpable. Rowing machines were just used for testing, not training and measurement, physios were a bonus, and sports science was embryonic compared to today. Of course performance enhancing drugs were very much present - later that year, Ben Johnson would test positive for stanozolol at the Seoul Olympics - but reflections on that are for another time.

Sport was starting what would now be called the search for marginal gains. Elsewhere, the Internet was coming (see link), while in financial services, financial engineering and modelling, securitization etc. were starting to move ahead in leaps and bounds...

3. More managerial: Although not always consciously, there's no doubt sport has learned a lot from business management. In 1988 we could be deliberately scruffy, often argumentative, definitely non-deferential, even in the GB team. Mostly these were small things, and in the relative absence of resources they were more self-reliant times. But there's little doubt the culture of sport has changed in this respect, that athletes have become more (financially) dependent on the system.

In the years since, both sport and business have been on a quest to find how teams work best, how they develop and regenerate. In the process, business has probably become less hierarchical, sport perhaps more. I'm rather  more sceptical of the latter...

This is not a nostalgia trip, and in many ways, as an athlete, I would much rather be competing today. But I think there is something about our lack of deference and group think 30 years ago that is worth pausing on. Whether, in the search for consistency and efficiency, we might underestimate the risk - in sport and business - of taking too much of the "grit" of individuals' opinions out of the chain, losing the potential for challenge and dissent from accepted wisdom that comes with it.