Technology wins championships.
The Golden State Warriors tore through the NBA in the 2014-15 season, racking up one of the best won/loss records in history, and winning the title “world champions.” Yes, they did it with tenacious defense and REEE-dicuuulous shooting (to quote their radio play-by-play guy). But their secret is out now: They turned to technology.
Unproven. Little known. Still-being-developed technology.
At BloomReach we work with a lot of e-commerce professionals and marketers who are faced every day with a REEE-dicuulous number of new technologies that hold the promise of more efficient and more profitable operations. Choosing among the many, or even figuring out which ones to give the time of day to, are daunting and often thankless jobs.
For one thing, the team’s dominating odyssey illustrates the idea that technology’s highest calling is to augment human performance. It’s all about human+machine. Beyond that, you’ll find woven into Leung’s well-reported story, five lessons for those looking for the edge that well-conceived technology can provide.
- Correlation is not causation, but it’s something: Sure, data that shows you direct cause and effect is the best, but in the hurly-burly of a championship run, you can’t always design the perfect control test. During practices, the story said, Warriors players wore sophisticated sensors from Catapult Sports that monitor players’ stamina and fatigue. Such tech gizmos are prohibited during games. Late in the season, the Catapult data showed it was time to sit guard Klay Thompson for a game in Denver. He needed the rest. Two games later he was playing again and he promptly rolled his foot and sprained his ankle. Was it because he was tired? Thompson says no. Warriors executive Kirk Lacob says maybe, according to the BANG story. “Now, you can’t always stop a guy from turning his ankle,” Lacob, who heads the Warriors’ analytics team, told Leung, “but if a guy has never turned an ankle before, and your data tells you he’s getting tired, and he turns an ankle, maybe there’s something to it. Maybe there’s not, but most likely there is.”
- Just because you’re trying one new thing, don’t be afraid to add more new technology: More is not always better. But if you work deliberately to ensure that systems are not incompatible and that they are attacking different problems or combining forces to better attack the same challenge, go for it. The Warriors, for instance, adopted the Catapult system, but that’s not all, Leung explained. Thompson also uses ShotTracker technology, which analyzes shooting mechanics. And star player Stephen Curry works out with high-tech goggles meant to boost reaction time and vision. Harrison Barnes, meanwhile, adds to the tech arsenal with a sophisticated system that tracks the changes in a player’s heart rate.
- Adopt early, because if you don’t, a competitor will: Sure, a half-baked technology can slow progress more than promote it. On the other hand, don’t insist on perfection and a long track record before you dive in. Getting in early gives you a chance to help shape the product and means that you gain an advantage that competitors don’t have. In 2014-15, the Warriors were among only 11 of the NBA’s 30 teams that were using the Catapult system, BANG reports. Besides winning the NBA championship, the Warriors also had the fewest minutes lost to injury in the league, Leung writes, citing an ESPN study. Oh, and this year? Nineteen NBA teams are using Catapult to keep track of their players’ physical condition.
- Use your network to vet technology that is promising, but not established: There is nothing like conferring with trusted sources who know your business and the challenges you face. Leung reports that the Warriors intend to test a sensor technology that is embedded in compression athletic wear. The Athos system tracks electrical signals sent through the muscles during activity while monitoring heart rate, calories burned and breathing tempo, the story says. Among the investors in the company is Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ co-owner and Kirk Lacob’s father, Leung reports, adding that former Warriors player Jermaine O’Neal is also an investor.
- Never stop looking for the next new thing: You know that seemingly endless list of new technologies that you could be adopting? They are going to just keep coming, so keep your eyes open for the ones that could give you an advantage. Kirk Lacob told Leung that he felt fortunate to be working in a region known for innovation. And, he said, all the Warriors’ success means that nearly everyone with a new idea wants to talk to him about it.
Just another reason that it’s good to be champions.
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Reach him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.