Home > Uncategorized > From Harvard to the NBA: 4 Organizational Lessons from Jeremy Lin

From Harvard to the NBA: 4 Organizational Lessons from Jeremy Lin

Linning. Linsanity. Lincredible. If you haven’t heard these terms yet, you will. I’m talking about Jeremy Lin. He’s the Asian-American who went to Harvard and now stars in the NBA for the New York Knicks.

  I’m not here to break down his basketball game. I’m certainly in no position to do that.

What I am interested in talking about is what the sensation of Jeremy Lin means for your organization.

He’s an Asian-American in a sport where 78% of the professional athletes are African-Americans and only 1% are Asian. No greater disparity exists between two races in a major US sport. He’s beaten the odds. As Americans, we like that kind of story. According to a USA Today post earlier, “Kenny Au-Yeung, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the Asian-American community was taking great delight in Lin…’It was going to happen sooner or later. It’s good to see it’s happened in New York. We actually have a face now that represents the Asian community.’ ” What are you doing to foster similar results- and a similar reaction- in your organization?

Jeremy Lin went to Harvard. Now, I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for him about this. But, in terms of basketball pedigree, the Crimson are not exactly cranking out NBA talent. Or as I read in one article, Harvard has produced twice as many US presidents as they have NBA players. So, what we have is an unlikely talent from an unlikely source. Can anyone do the math on this? I’m pretty sure I could win the lottery three times or get struck by lightning seven times before this combination happens again. The point is… is your organization looking for talent in unlikely places? Do you have your finger on the pulse of what’s really happening in your industry or is it business as usual?

Jeremy Lin can score, but he also looks to get assists. I’ve heard references to humility and team basketball, and Lin credits the Knicks system for giving him success. In a me-first era, this really stands out. Is your organization only listening to the loudest voices, those who are self-promoting? Or are you identifying those who can contribute and are not looking for the credit but for the good of the whole? Are you creating a system where employees, members, and customers can thrive? Or do they merely survive, waiting for the next place they can truly be a part of?

The Knicks are winning. As I write this, their win streak stands at seven in a row, and they have returned to .500. It would be a great story regardless, but winning magnifies it, winning gives it buzz. What is your organization doing to help its members, employees, or customers to achieve success and win? I guarantee that people will be talking if you do this.

Lastly, I like this from Sameer Pandya (You can read his entire “The Jeremy Lin discussion” post on ESPN.com.): “Lin feels more like us, albeit with a better jumper and a quicker first step off the dribble. Under the magnified lights of the Garden, Lin has been living out the everyday revenge fantasy we all entertain, made even more poignant in our recessionary time. His success speaks to everyone who feels ignored, waiting for a chance to show the skill that we believe lies within us, to prove the naysayers wrong.”

What other lessons do you see from the Jeremy Lin story?

What opportunities is your organization giving for success? And once achieved, what are you doing to effectively tell their success stories to your employees, members, customers, and community?

  1. February 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Speaking of money, math and looking for talent in unlikely places – watch the movie “Moneyball.” Great article with good questions, Jay!

  1. December 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

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