As a Hoosier, I’ve played, coached and watched my share of basketball. Last weekend I attended 2 Big Ten tournament games and later watched two of my grandsons compete in 4 additional contests in one afternoon. I won’t go so far as claiming that “Basketball is life”, but it certainly can be instructive in both life and business. Here are few observations:
Practiced creativity: My grandsons are gym rats (literally the name of their league). Gym rats look for every opportunity to get on the floor. They rush onto court at time-outs and half-time of earlier games to get in as many shots as possible. They are fun to watch because they often practice creative moves and shots without any fear or failure or embarrassment when they miss badly. They just keep stretching their skills which then occasionally produce an in-game “Wow!” moment.
Innovators and business leaders can learn from this joyous experimentation. As we age, the hard knocks of business and the peer pressure to always appear successful push us toward safer pathways. We should carve out some “gym rat” time and space and attempt a few half-court spin-dribble hook shots within our carefully constructed strategies.
Initiate contact – be the aggressor: Whether playing offense or defense, successful teams are the decisive actors on the court. They don’t shy away from contact with their opponents, knowing that most calls go against those who respond weakly, slowly or clumsily to the “take-charge” players.
When is the last time you put on a sustained “full court press” against your competitors or charged through their defensive positions with an explosive move?
Stretch the rules: We are taught throughout life to play by the rules. My observation is that most successful basketball teams and players stretch those rules quite a bit. I’m sure they were taught how to dribble without taking extra steps (traveling) or carrying/palming the ball when changing direction, but in game situations they often use these tactics to gain an edge. And they get away with these actions more times than not.
I’m certainly not advocating doing anything illegal or immoral in business, but why accept the status quo (e.g. prevailing rules of the current business model or limits of current technology) as the only course of action? Relentlessly challenge every industry-standard approach or purported best practice and stretch beyond them to create new value for your customers and your company.