Why I’d Rather Be Naismith Than Gretzky
March 22, 2014 1 Comment
For decades we’ve been using Wayne Gretzky as a business metaphor… and what a “great” metaphor he is: Gretzky is the leading point scorer ever in the NHL, has more assists than any other player has points, has the highest points in a single season four times over, and holds 40 regular-season + 15 playoff records. When asked how he did it, Gretzky’s famous reply was that he skated to where the puck was going, instead of where it already was… and a business metaphor was born.
Recently, I contrasted Gretzky with James Naismith. Who?? You know, the guy that invented basketball. In 1891 he showed up at a YMCA and attached two empty peach buckets to opposing walls of the gym, 10 ft high… then he taught his students 13 rules for a new game, which he called “Basket Ball.” Behold, an entire universe of new sport was born.
Imagine if you could somehow tally up every bit of economic value created by the invention of basketball – what is that worth? Imagine every single equipment/uniform/merchandise sale, every ticket sold or salary paid, every advertising endorsement held by a basketball player, every training camp, every TV commercial played during a game, every video game about basketball. I have no idea how you would calculate that figure… but if you could, it would be exponentially greater than Gretzky’s earnings.
Today more than ever, business is about ecosystems: any group of interdependent relationships between suppliers, providers, customers, and the products or services they consume. Global, social, and mobile trends have blurred the lines between all parties, and the roles are evolving at a blistering pace. Any organization that can take a leadership role in such an ecosystem and actively re-architect the “rules of the game” has potential to add incredible value for the entire ecosystem. I saw this first-hand at Intuit, where an ecosystem was created by opening source code and inviting customers to become programmers… & of course it has been famously done by FaceBook, creating unimaginable value.
This month I joined Agero, the nation’s leading technology-enabled automotive service provider. Their ecosystem consists of stranded car drivers, auto manufacturers/insurers/road clubs that offer roadside assistance policies, and the providers who actually come “rescue” drivers on the side of the road. Agero has a fantastic opportunity to become the architect of this ecosystem, dramatically expanding the overall value of the system. Although I can’t say much more about their plans at this time, they have an exciting future, and this is why I joined the team: To help Agero redefine the rules for an entirely different game…