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Time To Get Your Own Shot Clock!

We could all do with a shot clock that would remind us that sitting pretty on past successes is not an option

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It was the 1950s. The sport of  basketball was in trouble. Games were beginning to drag, excitement was dwindling, and crowds were staying away. Wondering why? Well, once a team got a lead in the game, it would try and hold on to the ball for as long as it could, passing listlessly from one teammate to another, depriving the opponents of a chance to catch up. They wouldn’t bother with shooting and scoring points, so much so that in one NBA game, the score line at the end read 19-18.  

And then in 1954 came an innovation that transformed basketball. The Shot Clock. Danny Biasone is the man credited with changing the face of  basketball. He introduced the clock – a countdown timer really - and a new rule came into force. Now, once a team got possession of the ball, they had 24 seconds in which to take a shot at the basket, failing which the ball would automatically pass over to the opposing team. Result? Both teams now began to furiously try to score points throughout the game. There was never a dull moment, and often, the winner was decided only in the dying moments of  the game. The impact was dramatic. The pace of the game picked up. Average points per game went up from 79 to 107. And attendance at games went up 40 per cent.

The shot clock has been back in the news in the past few months. Tennis authorities are experimenting with a shot clock – no doubt to put an end to the endless ball bouncing and underwear adjusting we see before every serve. And golf  is toying with the shot clock too, to try and speed up the game, and get golfers to make a move on without a million practice swings.
But it strikes me that more than tennis and golf, it’s you and I who need to get our own shot clocks. And yes, every business needs them too.

We’ve seen several examples of  businesses that built a dominant share - and a large, profitable enterprise - and then sat back and rested on their laurels. They didn’t innovate, they didn’t feel the need to do anything new. And they died. Maybe a shot clock could have reminded Kodak that if  they don’t change, if they don’t move forward, they will risk losing the customer and their entire camera film business. Maybe that would have goaded Kodak to go digital and saved them from bankruptcy.

As individuals, we are sometimes guilty of falling into the trap too. We are in a role where we have delivered, done well, and then we take our foot off the pedal and move into cruise control mode. Our teams pick up that change. The organisation reflects the slackening up. And business begins to go south. We could all do with a shot clock that would remind us that sitting pretty on past successes is not an option. We need to make progress, grow and learn in order to stay relevant. And if  we don’t do that, we risk losing what we have so carefully built up.

And I am sure we all need that shot clock in our personal lives too. To remind us to spend time with the family. Go out on that dinner date with the spouse. Be there with the children. A countdown timer that says “You better do this quickly – or else!” would work wonders I am sure.

Time then, to get your own little shot clock. Before it’s too late.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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leadership magazine 1 september 2018

Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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