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Book cover from The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush.
Book cover from The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush.

Book excerpt

What your business can learn from a legendary basketball coach Add to ...

Reprinted from The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush.

Technology as a coach is the use of data and systems to transform your technology from a referee shouting “Offside!” to a coach who helps your people avoid behaviour patters that have been problematic in the past, providing real-time guidance and recommendations. A referee enforces rules; a coach helps your team win. Technology as a Coach allows your organization to radically accelerate execution and manage risk without drowning in bureaucracy.

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A recent ESPN readership survey chose John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won ten NCAA championships in a twelve-year run, as their top coacl of all time. It’s rare that sports fan agree so strongly on any Top Ten list, but Wooden was the number one choice of more than 4,000 of the 15,131 votes submitted.

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s first year at UCLA demonstrates what a good coach can do: The team went from a 12 to 13 record the year before to Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) Southern Division champions, with a 22 to 7 record. Along with his seven books on coaching and leadership, Wooden gave us his Pyramid of Success, which is as applicable off the court as it is on it.

Coach Wooden’s thoughts on the topic of success expertly sum up our approach to coaching. Here are a few of our favourite quotes:

  • “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”
  • “Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.”
  • “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
  • “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
  • “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
  • “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • “A coach is someone who can give you correction without causing resentment.”

So the question becomes: How do we Woodenize software? How do we transform eReferees into eCoaches? How do we take decades of enterprise software design that is stubbornly based on enforcing business rules and transform it into an intelligent, dynamic, performance-enhancing agent of success? If you’ve read this far, you probably already know that the answer lies in data.

Let’s take a look at a story that very deliciously demonstrates the frustration we encounter when dealing with a system that uses technology as a referee. Like most airline loyalty systems, Air Canada’s Aeroplan allows its members to create a profile and specify their meal choice. (Our colleague) Jay is a vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs, so he was thrilled to discover that their system actually includes a “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” option. Unfortunately, it also includes a rule that says a custom meal must be ordered eighteen hours before a flight. Given that Klick’s headquarters is located in Toronto, there are few choices other than Air Canada for regular service to the places were our clients are located. The nature of our business means we often have to change our travel plans within a few hours of departure, but the Aeroplan referee has been coded to prioritize customers’ food over their schedules.

Someone – probably a business analyst – decided that late schedule changes should be rejected if they meant that Air Canada couldn’t deliver an Aeroplan member’s preferred meal choice. Although Jay appreciates their slavish dedication to culinary excellence, he ultimately had to remove his dietary preference setting so he could do his job.

Air Canada could have solved the problem by building a manual override into the system, allowing passengers to fly when they need to even if that meant not getting their special food. But they didn’t, and now Jay can’t eat the food on any of his Air Canada flights because all of it contains meat. This is classic referee behaviour. The system is yelling “offside!” because a rule is being broken instead of questioning the validity of the rule itself – a feeling many of us have had while trying to slog through some pointless task imposed by our company’s ERP system.

Leerom Segal is the co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based Klick Health, the world’s largest independent digital health agency. He has won numerous awards as one of Canada’s leading young entrepreneurs. Aaron Goldstein is a co-founder and COO of Klick, responsible for orchestrating the creative application of technology that drives the company’s operations. Jay Goldman is a Managing Director for Klick and has been published in the Harvard Business Review. Rahaf Harfoush is a technology author and lecturer.

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