The buzz this weekend has been all about Jeremy Lin. Whitney Houston’s death might have taken a little bit away, but even those in the music business were talking about Lin. If you don’t know who he is, you’re not that much more out of the loop than almost everybody on the plan prior to last weekend. Jeremy Lin was a basketball player who did not get awarded any scholarships to play ball in college and was undrafted by any NBA team. Even with that, he had spent some time warming the benches of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets before being called up to warm the bench of the New York Knicks. Luckily for Lin – and all the rest of us – the Knicks were suffering with key injuries and no answer at the point guard position and decided to give Lin the chance to play more minutes than he could have dreamed of. Since playing well in the backup minutes of that first game (that he was key in winning), he has started the last four games for the Knicks and not only helped lead them to all wins, but he has done so by scoring the most points in the first four starts of his career than anyone since the mid-70s. There was some excitement after the first couple of games, but the real buzz and excitement came when he lit up the perennial powers of the Los Angeles Lakers and their uber-star, Kobe Bryant, with a game leading 38 points. Needless to say, this is not a sports blog, but there are many take-aways from this chain of events that can help any company in staffing, marketing, innovation and business itself.
Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald wrote a good piece dissecting some of the many elements make this story shocking. Where basketball and scouting are so developed it is almost a science, how is it possible that this young guy was able to do what he has done under such circumstances? While it has only been a few games and he most likely will come back down to Earth at some point, most teams would be happy to have even half of his scoring production and natural leadership on their team. But, when you think about it, this could not have happened with just any team. The fact that the Knicks were doing so poorly that they would take a chance on Lin added to the fact that they are in a major market, are key to this being as big of a story as it is.
The Miami Heat have a Rookie, Norris Cole, who shows signs of greatness at point guard, but the team has three healthy superstars, so his play can be limited and he can hopefully grow into something phenomenal. Jeremy Lin first played for his hometown Golden State Warriors and, though he received applause whenever he got on the court, nobody knew about him outside of the Bay area – the market was just too small to make a difference.
So, again, what does this have to do with marketing, staffing, innovation or business? There are a number of points to focus on:
- Stepping Up – Jeremy Lin obviously worked hard to even get to a place where he would have the possibility of playing. In the game of sports, players have to be ready because their opportunity can come at any time. While there are more politics in play in business, when that opportunity arises for us to step up, we’ve got to show our true mettle. Lin walked through the door when it was opened and he made the best out of it. Some people choose not to walk through the door when it is opened. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is remarkable.
- Staffing – We know there are stereotypes at play when it comes to hiring. In the least, we’ve got to do what we can on an individual basis to move beyond that. It is definitely hard when many recruiters are only looking for the sure thing, but there are many hidden gems that are missed because the algorithm didn’t pick them up in an HR application or the recruiter just didn’t have the knowledge base to get what was really needed. It’s too bad that there’s not a hiring solution that mimics online dating services that have been so successful. Regardless, those talent gems can come from anywhere and everywhere.
- Resourcefulness – Companies too often focus on what they can’t do because of size or vertical. What really matters is being true to oneself and have the confidence to move forward in a way that fits within the parameters of the product or vision. There are so many options for making a positive splash using the tools that are already available.
- Opportunity – By knowing what your business realities are and recognizing what can be done to optimize what you already maintain by way of product, staff, timing or location, you can best leverage any opportunity to do something extraordinary for your business. Too often, companies look at their revenues flattening or shrinking and start battening down the hatches and wait for an economic upturn. That doesn’t always seem to be the best choice. It’s those down times that can lead to the biggest opportunities for the company – perhaps in ways you’ve never imagined. Had the Knicks coach not taken a chance and put Lin in the game while then creating specific plays for the personnel he had on the court, we might not be buzzing about Linsanity.
- Innovation – Perhaps it’s not about real change, just innovated approaches to what you’ve been doing for years. Once you start repeating the known and stop looking for ways to improve – whether your business is doing well or poorly – it’s almost like your company is doomed. In this model, Lin isn’t doing anything different from what a true point guard should be doing. But, by placing someone whom nobody thought would be more than a bench-warmer and his energy in the line-up, everybody’s game is raising up a notch and the crowds are loving it.
- Success Breeds Success – Sadly, I have seen clients and other companies feel that they have hit their goals and call it a year rather than harnessing that success to build other things. The Linsanity is an example of success being harnessed to grow other things. Because of his popularity, the Timberwolves had to sell out their standing room only tickets because of the demand when the Knicks played there this weekend. The NBA is getting a push because of it and, certainly, the Knicks are working the angle. The biggest mistake you can make is when you let a success remain in its own vacuum and not look to leverage it.
There’s going to be much more to learn from Linsanity and everything that surrounds it as time moves on. Hopefully, he continues his success once the two superstars return to the team. And, hopefully whatever is learned by this helps companies flourish beyond what they thought was possible – through opening eyes up to what is not imminently seen.