My career began in a period where most executives said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Today, with the exponential rate of change, if “it ain’t broke”, and you’re the incumbent, you must break it yourself, otherwise your challenger will. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Great leaders take risks, are willing to value legacy, but are not locked into tradition, not even the one that got them there.
Great leaders take risks, are willing to value legacy, but are not locked into tradition, not even the one that got them there.
Recently, buying and owning one of the major franchises in professional NBA basketball, The Golden State Warriors, I saw in its previous management the face of institutional bias against change. While ownership of a professional sports team requires winning on the field of battle, to really succeed as a location based entertainment enterprise, you must also be a retailer, a concessioner, a broadcaster, and an entertainment provider, and must win in all of these sectors. In today’s technological environment, this requires an organization that is superbly digitally fit. Yet in a sport where fitness is so important, with the Warriors, this was AWOL – absent without love, and our greatest challenge.
At the outset, when we took control of our venue, Oracle arena, making a mobile phone call was tougher than winning on the court. The franchise hadn’t even moved into paperless ticketing like the airlines or using digital offerings to deliver a more cashless venue. The environment frowned on their talent tweeting and utilizing digital social media assets. Engaging mobile digital technologies to solve parking or security problems wasn’t even on the opportunity horizon. And these items were just the low hanging fruit on the digital fitness tree.
Prior management exhorted, “Why should we change?!!!” The place was drawing a robust audience even though the team was losing more games than it was winning. As new owners, we had to overcome this resistance to change which meant convincing the management that you’re never “safe” by ferociously defending your incumbency. By doing nothing, our new organizational leadership would be telling a highly damaging story to our fans, i.e., customers, that we were trying to be interesting ourselves, but not interested in what they wanted.
And what did they want? They wanted to be participants in their experience, not just passengers. We, like any digitally fit organization, must be constantly curious, creating new experiences to capture their attention, interest, and interaction by intelligently using emerging technologies.
A digital offense is the beginning, not the end of the process. Whether you’re a location based entertainment company, a brand, a financial services organization, a philanthropic venture or any other organization, in a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain – sitting on the bench is a surefire way to watch your competition eat your lunch for the time, attention, and bounty of your business fan base.