How is your strategy uniquely better?

Every industry (for-profit and not-for-profit) has shared assumptions. Every industry is “stuck.” However, somebody, somewhere is messing with the rules to the prevailing model. Someone is creating a uniquely better strategy. ~Andy Stanley

I immediately thought of the idea of uniquely better referenced by Andy Stanley when I read an article on Forbes.com about the basketball coach from my alma mater. I apologize for offending any sports fanatics reading this, but I never imagined there could be such an amazing example of a uniquely better strategy coming from basketball?!

Here’s a quick synopsis of the uniquely better strategy.

The administration at Greenville University asked the men’s basketball coach, George Barber, to add a junior varsity program and attract more athletes to the small Division III school. They wanted Barber to create more interest and make basketball more attractive to recruits. That’s quite the challenge for a Division III university.

So here’s what he did. Barber implemented something called “The System.” The System is a very fast-paced style that emphasizes shooting as fast as possible, pressuring teams full-court on defense, and continuing the breakneck speed the entire game. In more practical terms, this means attempting to shoot within 12 seconds of getting the ball, and taking at least 100 shots per game.

This strategy, The System, means more players get to (really have to) play in every game. The only way to maintain this pace through an entire game is to change players far more frequently than a traditional strategy. Therefore, everyone gets to play; that’s going make basketball more attractive to recruits.

This strategy didn’t come without its critics. “It was a complete risk,” Barber said. “Everybody said, you won’t win, you’re gonna embarrass yourself and your school, and defense wins championships.”  The first year was hard, with a losing record, Barber nearly gave up on The System, mid-game. But his assistant coach encouraged him to stick with it, he’d invested too much.

And sticking with it paid off, big time!

  • The team is averaging 134.7 points per game and is on pace to break the NCAA record of 132.4 points per game.
  • They won the conference tournament last season and qualified for their first NCAA berth.
  • They scored 200 points in a game (one of Barber’s goals). Earlier this month they won 200-146, the most combined points score in a Division III game.

So what’s to learn from Coach Barber’s use of The System for creating a uniquely better strategy?

  • It’s about more than “winning.” It’s about finding creative ways to achieve multiple goals.
  • It’s risky. It’s not a sure thing; if it was, it probably wouldn’t be uniquely better.
  • You have to stick with it. You can’t give up if it’s not immediately successful.
  • It reinvigorates leadership.

How are you leading your organization down a path of a uniquely better strategy?

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