In basketball, one of the more creative plays you will see during a game is the no look pass. A player, without looking, fires a pass to a teammate typically leading to a score as the defense is caught flat footed. The move is high risk and can lead to a turnover. However, when it works it is thing of beauty. Often overlooked are the hours of practice, structure, and ultimately trust that is required for a player to look away while throwing a pass to a spot on the floor and know that his teammate will be there to receive it. The no look pass is the perfect example of how structure enables creativity.
Once every player understands the playbook and their roles within it, as well as the skills and idiosyncrasies of their teammates, a sixth sense develops that enables the team to think as one. In business, managers, particularly those overseeing small teams, stand to learn a lot from how basketball coaches create an environment that empowers their players to do more than just execute the plan as scripted. In order to establish a business culture that fosters creativity, style and intellectual freedom, managers should consider implementing the following five tactics.
1. Cross training. Create opportunities for your staff to learn multiple positions, for example, the engineer spends time in the marketing department
2. Film study. Develop a visual post mortem document that shows the various touch points throughout a completed project
3. Practice sessions. Establish trial runs, where creative choices are encouraged and celebrated
4. Team selection. Recruit staff that enjoy working in a collaborative environment and get as much pleasure in other success as they do theirs.
5. Game plan. Make sure everyone on the team knows what you are trying to accomplish and how their work ladders up
With this structure and mindset in place, teams are able to adapt roles and functions on the fly, anticipating unforeseen challenges without skipping a beat. As a result, teams that master the no look pass, are always one step ahead of their competition. This process takes time and commitment, but once established, teams are able to move much faster, eliminating the pauses caused by uncertainty. If you are wondering how you might begin to create a sixth sense within your team, a company outing to a Warriors game is a good start.