Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March To Madness

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

In 1986 we made it to the Final Four and beat a great Kansas team to get to Monday night. We lost that championship game to Louisville, 72-69, and if there is a game in my career I look back on with regret, it’s that one. I just don’t believe I gave my players as much help as I could have if I’d had more Final Four experience at that point. They were tired after the Kansas game, very tired, and I didn’t find ways to use the bench early in the game to keep them fresh enough for the finish. Those four kids – Dawkins, Alarie, Bilas, and Henderson – deserved to win the national championship. I know they all feel as if they somehow came up short by not winning that night, but I’ve always felt that if anyone came up short, it was me. I do think they know that the three national championships we’ve won since would not have happened if not for them. That’s why I honestly believe they have been national champions – because 1991, 1992, and 2001 could not have happened if not for 1986.”

- Mike Krzysewski, Duke University head basketball coach (from the introduction of the book Last Dance by John Feinstein)

The NCAA college basketball tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Despite my 6’8” frame, of all the sports I played growing up, basketball was not one of them. But I enjoy college basketball. And the Road to the Final Four™ has it all. Lively and intriguing characters, leadership, drama¸ passion, suspense¸ excitement, heartbreak, a sense of history, and much, much more. I don’t even fill out a bracket. I just want to see good basketball. I’ve never been disappointed.

Quality basketball from quality basketball programs. As I think about it, I suppose this is what attracts me to the NCAA tournament. It’s the same thing I like about innovation. Quality innovation from quality innovation programs.

Programs being the operative word.

Programs aren’t readily bought and sold. They must be developed. And a program is something that can be handed down from leader to leader, coach to coach, player to player, over the course of its lifetime. A good program can have lasting effect after individuals have come and gone.

John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time, built a program at UCLA that will never be equaled - ten NCAA championships, seven of them consecutive. It was a program that was sustainable for a time even after he departed. “We had very good players and I wanted to be sure I didn’t leave the cupboard bare for the next coach,” Wooden has stated. “I’m very proud of the fact that we won the league championship the first four years after I retired.” In fact, UCLA even went back to the Final Four the very next year after he left.

In what shape is your innovation program? Can it be handed down to the next group of leaders, coaches, and players?

Although the process to develop a quality innovation program may at times drive you mad, to not put forth the effort to do so would be just plain crazy.

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