The game changer

The business section of any bookstore is full of trendy, flavor-of-the-moment systems and methods to teach business people to become great. In fact, a casual glance at a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble or a scroll through leaves one with the impression that business people must be like survivors of a sunken ocean liner, treading water in a vast sea with no idea of which way to swim or even how to tread water long enough to see the next dawn. Just why are there so many business advice books, and why do so many people seem to need help?

Business leaders of the world, you’re not alone. The diet and exercise section is just as full, as is the self-help section. People everywhere seem to need help. Is it simply just part of the human condition?

Everyone is looking for the magic bullet. The fountain of youth. The thing, the system, the organizational tool, the product, the marketing campaign, the something that if they just did that, it would revolutionize their business. The game changer.

Game changers happen every day, and they literally can upend the status quo overnight. Take Apple. It’s had one series of game changers after another: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, iTunes, Apple TV. Are we chasing our tails trying to become Steve Jobs? Does it take a once-in-a-lifetime leader to create game changers?

game changer
The San Antonio Spurs’ game changer is teamwork. Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

No, it doesn’t. Look at the world of sports and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are the definition of boring. San Antonio doesn’t offer the glamour of L.A., the bright lights of New York or the club lifestyle of Miami. Their best player is a soft-spoken Wake Forest graduate who prefers a graceful hook shot over a crowd-pleasing dunk. Their coach isn’t flamboyant or showy. Their lineup isn’t filled with mega-stars, but rather a cast of complementary role players.

The Spurs work hard. They stick to the game plan. They think long-term. They show players and coaches loyalty. When things get rough, they have confidence in the system and don’t deviate from what they know works. They maintain faith in themselves and their teammates. They don’t argue or bicker or seek personal accolades.

Bo-ring. It’s much more fun to showboat, to play to the crowd and to air locker room grievances on Twitter. But that isn’t a recipe for winning. The Spurs have won five NBA championships since 1999, and have appeared in the finals six times. It’s because their game changer is simply doing what they know works.

Their game changer is simply doing what they know works.

The odds of you being the next Steve Jobs, or your company inventing the next iPod, are a million to one. Those kinds of game changers are lightning in a bottle. They’re anomalies that you can’t control. But what you can control is how you and your company do business.

Odds are, you know what to do. You don’t need the latest business books. You don’t need motivational speakers or the app that will change how you do business. If you’ve been in business for more than six months and have been paying attention, you know that the real game changers that separate good businesses from bad ones and great ones from good are adhering to doing things the right way, every time.

Only you know what that means for your business. I’ve discussed what it means for a basketball team. If you know how things should be done, and you’re not doing it, whether due to inertia, laziness, near-sightedness or some other reason, then you have your game changer right in front of you.

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