Terence Blacker: Loser Management Theory: a beginner's guide

Winning is not always winning. Losing can, in a profound and meaningful sense, be a triumph
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The Independent Online

Not for the first time, the great man has proved that, as a manager, he is second to none when it comes to thinking outside the box. This new approach to work, sport and relationships, known among experts as Loser Management Theory, seems likely to overturn the traditional concept of competition, replacing it with a more nuanced approach.

Winning is not always winning. Losing can, in a profound and meaningful sense, be a triumph in itself. In the case of the Lions, it was not being hammered in three successive Test matches which was the ultimate criterion of success. In fact, winning one might even have been something of a setback.

These are the basic precepts of Loser Management Theory, and already publishers are circling Sir Clive Woodward with ideas for an inspirational manual - Losing To Win, Losernomics and How to Swim with the Sharks, Get Eaten and Still Rule the Pool are among the proposed titles.

The competition has been complicated by the fact that, to impress Woodward with their losing skills, editors have been sabotaging their own bids, but the general approach seems to be to look at recent case studies.

1. The Tory election win of 2005. "We got a bigger share of the vote than last time, but we are not going to let that get us down," was the upbeat response from Central Office following yet another thumping at the polls. "At the end of the day, politics is not about votes. Hearts and minds are what matter. We used to be known as the nasty party. Now people will begin to feel sorry for us and forget all about Thatcher and Tebbit." The biennial firing of the party leader is designed to reassure ordinary people that the shambles of their lives is not unique to them.

2. The Hamiltons trounce Mohamed Fayed in the High Court. There are been few more brilliant feats of Loser Management than what Neil and Christine Hamilton achieved in their libel case against Fayed. By losing, they carved out a new career as token middle-class wallies in lowest-common denominator TV shows. The popularity of embarrassing documentaries and reality shows enacts the truth of Loser Management Theory, that the worse things appear to be, the better they are in fact.

3. Martin Amis's Booker Prize triumph. The canniest novelists refuse to allow their work even to be considered for the Booker Prize, and then allow their modesty to be discreetly publicised. Amis has never gone that far, but, by failing even to make a shortlist, he has confirmed his position as the establishment's angry outsider. When two women judges refused to nominate the superb Money on the grounds that its central female character was a male fantasy figure, Amis's reputation was secure.

4. Paris cheers home its Olympic bid. Not usually talented in the art of losing gracefully, the French have actually welcomed the news that 2012 will be London's year. Inevitably, there will be controversy, rows and setbacks over the next seven years, and the French can sit back and watch with an air of Gallic smugness.

5. The anniversary of VE Day is celebrated across Germany. In surprising scenes, Germans have been throwing impromptu parties to mark the stupendous national achievement of the Second World War. "Of course, we could have won the thing," a young German historian explained on daytime TV. "But then we thought it through. There would have to be some kind of expensive Marshall Plan, endless dreary treaties. And can you imagine the hassle of trying to govern the British! So the decision was to let them have their little military victory - then we'd win everything else for the next 50 years."