Golden State’s game-changing small-ball philosophy has had a profound effect on how the game of basketball is being played the world over, capturing the imagination of NBA fans and revolutionizing basketball in general.
Small-ball relies on players who can play multiple positions, who love to make the extra pass, who love to sprint the length of the court on both offense and defense, and whose agility, lateral quickness and ability to anticipate can provide double-coverage against the lurking giants of the opposing teams. Successful small-ball practitioners are quick to find the mismatch on fast-switching defensive alignments. These are highly-skilled decision-makers ready to pounce on the slightest advantage given by the opposing team.
But the lessons of the small-ball philosophy isn’t for the cage fan alone. It is a fascinating study actually, not just for cage gurus, but also for people who indulge in business, and those who study life in general. For it brings to the fore certain striking elements that are the hallmarks of success for any club, organization or business entity.
The small-ball concept is audacious, bold, innovative and decisive. It is executed in dizzying speed. In the corporate world, these same qualities are precisely what gets companies to the top. You will need the same mindset among top-level corporate players to make your business succeed in today’s environment.
Small-ball will sacrifice size for speed, power for finesse. A clear example of this would be the Warriors’ no-center line-up of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Andre Igoudala and Draymund Green. This line-up is quick to double team, quick to box-out under the shaded lane for the rebound, quick on the outlet pass, quick on the offensive transition, and quick to find the best alternative among multiple finish options. What this ‘line-up of death’ lack in height and heft, they more than make up for with sizzling speed and superb skills. They run, they pass, they shoot, they hustle on both ends of the court.
The same holds true for business today. Whereas the creation of the 3-point line has given small players an equal advantage in basketball, the advent of technology has made the younger generation competitive against the traditional old-school tycoons in business. Their strengths? Dynamism, speed in decision-making, audacity, innovation, boldness and tech know-how.
Breaking down old traditions, today’s young business leaders are like the Golden State Warriors playing small-ball. They are quick to spot opportunities, quick to move, quick to relay information, quick to adjust, quick to collaborate, and are capable of wearing many hats, much like a stretch-4 or a point-forward occupying multiple positions.
Gen-x and millennial entreps are quick to try new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new concepts; with start-ups that are ready to challenge traditional thinking. These newbies will not challenge existing market-leading companies frontally, but will use disruptive innovation and technology to empower themselves in creating great opportunities and even new markets.
Take Uber, a taxi service without a single taxi owned. Or Airbnb, a hotel wannabe without a single hotel room. Or Skype, a global phone company without a telco infrastructure. Or Netflix, providing us movies without a single movie house. These are today’s new innovators undercutting the need for giant players in the business. This is the business environment of the future, with small-ball players always on the go. As a young tycoon would say: “Seize the day!”
So there. If you’ve seen Golden State’s style of play, imagine that in the business world. You see your corporate players moving the ball around with dizzying speed. The ball – in this case, the information – moves around fast as the defense – your competitor – tries to adjust. As the defense chases the ball around, it almost miraculously finds an open man. He is wide open, and he takes aim oh-so calmly. You see an uncontested 3-pointer floating beautifully towards the goal. Swoosh! Nothing but net!!! It’s game over. Score another win for the small-ballers.