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Golden nuggets from Denver Nuggets

So after a wait of 56 years, the Denver Nuggets finally win an NBA championship. Big deal? Well, if you ask me – a frustrated, but loyal Denver Nuggets fan for over two decades – it IS a big deal. Having lived the earlier part of this millennium in Colorado and maintaining emotional ties with the beautiful city, I derive immense fan satisfaction when any of the Denver area teams do well. But this victory is special, as it came on the back of a team which has worked hard to get past adversity each season and the one that truly epitomizes the phrase “playing like a team”.

When Gaurav and Arjun asked me to become an Advisor for Venturis, I instantly warmed up to their core thesis that sports offer valuable lessons that can be applied to business context. As a management consultant, who has spent a large part of my professional career helping leaders achieve their goals, and a huge sports enthusiast myself, I can clearly see a few “Golden Nuggets” jumping out from the Nuggets’ road to Championship. Let’s start with an insightful excerpt from Nikola Jokic’s post-victory comments if you want to be successful, you need a couple years. You need to be bad, then you need to be good. Then when you’re good, you need to fail. Then when you fail, you’re going to figure it out. Yes, Jamal was injured. Yes, we lose in the first round or second round … but there is a process …there’s steps you need to fulfill. There are no shortcuts, it’s a journey and I’m glad I’m part of the journey“. Amazingly profound words – equally true for not just the sports teams, but for any organization.

Here are my 2 key takeaways that can be valuable lessons for anyone on a quest to business success:

1. Resilience amidst Adversity: What Jokic is saying is that success is not a linear journey, nor does it take place overnight (well, in most cases). It is not just about assembling the raw talent. That gets you off the blocks (like the Nuggets did by drafting Jokic and Murray in 2015 and 2016 respectively). You start getting some quick wins on the back of raw talent or an exciting early prototype, but then you lose more as competition gets a measure of your early differentiators (Denver won a few games but didn’t qualify for playoffs until 2018-19). Then you start taking non-trivial market share but can’t quite enter the big league (Nuggets did get to playoffs consistently thereafter but didn’t know how to win against the top teams). And then as you inch closer to the top, you are hit by a calamity – e.g., lose top talent, lose patent application, lose a key distribution partner. (Nuggets went all the way to Conference Finals in 2020 COVID bubble season before getting blown away by Lakers. And then they battled injuries to key players, just when the world had started to take them seriously). Resilient organizations take such setbacks in stride and continue the slow and painful journey of adjustments. (Just like the Nuggets did one tiny step at a time, filling key gaps in their line-up, until it all came together in the 2022-23 season). And this success, built on the battle wounds of adversity, is often what helps sustain success (as opposed to an equally rapid fall from the top). This journey is precisely what gives me confidence in coach Malone’s aspiration and promise to turn this team into an NBA dynasty.

2. Putting the team first: Nikola Jokic isn’t just a great center and a shooter, he’s one the most selfless players in the league. He averaged almost 12 assists a game, in addition to over 30 points and 13 rebounds a game in the post season. His team-mate, Jamal Murray averaged 7 assists a game. When Jamal was blitzed by the Heat defense in Game 4, he found a way to make 12 assists, making sure that when his scoring options were neutralized, there were others who could score and secure a team win. The Nuggets found a hero each game. Their all-round contribution shows that to build a successful team one needs to not only assemble the best team-mates, but truly find a way to make each other successful. The closest parallel to this in the business world is the concept of “Servant Leadership” – a leadership philosophy built on the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others. And this is only achieved by consciously driving a clear and unwavering focus on creating a culture that rewards making others in the team succeed. Organizational leaders (just like Jokic and Murray did) need to set an example of this every single moment, every single day.

So while we Nuggets fans look forward to the Dynasty, these are valuable lessons the Nuggets are teaching us today to absorb and apply in our respective domains. Do you have any you want to share?

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2023년 6월 21일

Great insights - love the analogies from crack sports teams to organizational development


Gaurav Vaid
Gaurav Vaid
2023년 6월 21일
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Thanks, @Pankaj Bhatia for the post and so excited to have you onboard as a leadership advisor!! Very well articulated article and great nuggets in here indeed for our readers!!

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