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企业如何突破创新者的窘境?这位橄榄球教练或许有答案

Brian O’Keefe 2018年05月06日

通过不断的自我颠覆来碾压对手,萨班带出了一支伟大的球队。

尼克·萨班知道自己的所作所为并不普通。作为阿拉巴马大学橄榄球队教练,萨班很清楚,对一所高校来说,像自己的阿拉巴马红潮队统治美国大学橄榄球那样,在过去10年里彻底主导一个重大体育项目绝非寻常之事。此外他也明白,指望一群18-22岁的小伙子去赢得全国冠军,然后更努力地付出以求变得更好早就超出了常规范畴。萨班说:“对我来说,保持成功需要的思路和打造出成功的东西完全不同。我们所有人好像都是这样,如果有了成绩,我们就觉得自己应该得到奖励,而且未必一定要把事情做的比以前还要好。”

那是个周五,萨班的球队接下来就要在春训中打第一场队内训练赛。在阿拉巴马州塔斯卡卢萨市镶着护墙木板的办公室里,66岁的萨班坐在长毛绒椅子上,翘着二郎腿。他面前的咖啡桌上摆了好几枚冠军戒指。穿着黑色套头毛衣、灰色宽松裤和黑色平底便鞋,这位教练进入了沉思模式。但他标志性的专注神情表明,他正在为一个话题预热——成为冠军就意味着,嗯,与众不同。

他说:“我的意思是,这就好像你考试得了个A,然后你说,‘我可以休息两周,下次考试得个C,那么平均分就是B’。这很正常。如果某个得了A的人说:‘我打算拿到班里的历史最好成绩’,那就很特殊,就不正常了。但你必须设法把这样的心态传递给集体中的成员。”

萨班最近顺利通过的一场测试就是2017赛季,而且这也许是他最伟大的胜利。赛季开始时阿拉巴马红潮队排在榜首,但随着联赛的进行,队里出现了大面积伤病,先发球员一共错过了54场比赛,球队也惨败给了主要对手奥本老虎队,这差点儿让红潮队在美国大学橄榄球联赛季后赛中丧失争冠位置。得到第二次机会后,红潮队惊险地再次夺冠。1月8日午夜刚过,或者说1月9日才开始几分钟,红潮队四分卫,19岁的大一新生图阿·塔格维洛瓦就拿出了震撼橄榄球界的表现——在对阵乔治亚大学的决赛加时赛中,在需要推进26码的红潮队发起第二次进攻时,塔格维洛瓦完成了一次41码远的精准传球达阵,力助红潮队26比23战胜对手。除了梦幻般的胜利,萨班在半场结束时还做过一个艰难决定,他换下了带领球队杀进决赛的四分卫杰伦·赫特斯,换上了塔格维洛瓦——这次精心计算的赌博发挥了作用。

这是萨班在阿拉巴马执教9年中拿下的第5个冠军。此前他曾在2003年带领路易斯安那州立大学夺冠。6枚冠军戒指让萨班追平了阿拉巴马传奇人物保罗·“拜尔”·布莱恩特在所谓的美联社排名时代(poll era,始于1936年)创下的大学橄榄球队教练夺冠记录。萨班的成绩还有着令人咋舌的稳定性——在他的带领下,阿拉巴马在过去153个美联社周度排名中拿下了72个第一。如果说模仿是真正的奉承,那么外界对萨班就是赞誉有加,这是因为阿拉巴马在东南联盟的四名对手——乔治亚、南卡罗莱那、田纳西和德克萨斯A&M大学已经聘请萨班的前助理教练担任他们的总教练(在和弟子的较量中,萨班还未尝败绩)。

《四分之一和日常目标:阿拉巴马对完美的不懈追求》(4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection)一书的作者菲尔·萨维奇说:“阿拉巴马的表现一直非常优异,而贯穿其中的统一脉络就是总教练尼克·萨班。”如今萨维奇是红潮队赛事转播首席分析师,1991年他和萨班则曾在克利夫兰布朗队公事。“我是说,他在阿拉巴马有过好几套不同的教练班子,用过不同的四分卫,也有过不同的防守明星球员。他在自上而下地确立基调方面确实做的很出色。”

这些年来萨班建立了名为“过程”(Process)的机制,也就是一套有条不紊又有效率的组织管理方法,进而取得了如此辉煌的成就。2012年萨班已在阿拉巴马执教5年,并且拿下了两个全国冠军。当时我曾在《财富》杂志上撰文介绍了萨班和他的“过程”,文章题目是《来自阿拉巴马教练尼克·萨班的领导课程》(Leadership Lessons from Alabama Coach Nick Saban,写到这里我得说明一下,我既是阿拉巴马校友,也是红潮队的终身粉丝)。那时的萨班面临着一个新挑战。令人惊艳地帮助密歇根州立大学和路易斯安那州立大学扭转颓势,但也在美国国家职业橄榄球联盟(NFL)成员迈阿密海豚队度过了令人失望的两年后,萨班在阿拉巴马迅速取得成功,进而巩固了自己大学橄榄球项目重建大师的名号。但问题在于,他能在一个地方长期保持优异成绩吗?接下来又夺冠三次(而且还有两、三次和冠军失之交臂)后,我们得到了一个肯定答案。

今年春天我又到大学去探索萨班的秘密。哈佛商学院教授克雷顿·克里斯滕森曾探讨过“创新者的窘境”,意思是成功会让人难以保持今后获胜所需的优势。那么萨班是如何化解体育领域的“创新者窘境”呢?

当然,所在高校拥有传统橄榄球强队,而且看来提供了无限的预算和资源是个优势(证据一:阿拉巴马3.6万平方英尺(3348平方米)的崭新体能房)。但最有力的解释是,萨班一直孜孜不倦地致力于自我颠覆。他的“过程”从外部来看也许显得死板,但它依赖于对有效和无效做法的持续分析以及在必要时大胆采纳新方法。萨班说:“我很讨厌别人说‘我们一直都是这么干的’。这绝对会让我发疯。”

在赛场内外都能看到萨班持续进步的意愿。比方说,随着近年来大学橄榄球开始采用四角战术,萨班也调整了自己的进攻方法(节奏更快,更多地利用空当)以及防守队员招募标准(以更快、更灵活的运动员为目标)。

萨班对通过技术获得优势同样持开放态度。几年前,阿拉巴马开始用Catapult公司的GPS系统来追踪球员的表现和运动量。比如,比较球员以前和现在训练中的最快速度或加速度有助于判断他是否在赛季末段出现了身体损伤。在2016年的决赛场上,阿拉巴马在最后一分钟输给了克莱姆森老虎队,萨班觉得自己的球员很疲劳。因此,在今年的季后赛开始前,他让首席体能师杰夫·艾伦仔细研究这些GPS数据。结果显示,红潮队相对于克莱姆森老虎队的整体表现确有下降。萨班研究了这些数据,然后决定调整曾经一成不变的季后赛训练方案,以便让球员更加精力充沛。今年,在决赛中胜出的是阿拉巴马。

有件事一直没变,那就是萨班在了解球员方面投入的时间和心血。他研究每个人的心理状态,目的是找到与之建立联系并给予指导的线索。萨班说:“你知道吗?有人觉得这项工作很讨厌。但我不这么认为。看看自己能否让某些人做出回应是件让人享受的事,就算他们有一点儿不寻常,对世界的看法也有些抽象。那么,我怎么才能接触到这个人,以便让他们做一些既有利于他们自己,也有利于集体的事呢?”

萨班对常规的持续突破能保持多久呢?1月份进行冠军巡游时,萨班在发言结束时说:“这还不算……”在他身后,球员们异口同声地大喊“完!”这也许能说明一点问题。(龙8国际|官网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

 

Nick Saban knows what he’s doing isn’t normal. The University of Alabama football coach is well aware that it’s anything but typical for one school to thoroughly dominate a major sport the way his Crimson Tide has ruled college football over the past decade. More to the point, he knows that it’s well outside the bounds of ordinary to expect 18- to 22-year-olds to win national championships—and then work even harder to get better. “To me it takes a completely different mindset to stay successful as opposed to what you have to do to build something to be successful,” says Saban. “All of us are sort of geared toward, if we have success, we’re supposed to be rewarded for it, not necessarily that we have to continue to do things even better than we did before.”

It’s the Friday before his team’s first scrimmage of spring practice, and Saban, 66, is sitting, legs crossed, in a plush chair in his wood-paneled office in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a collection of championship rings spread out on the coffee table in front of him. Clad in a black pullover sweater, gray slacks, and black loafers, the coach is in a reflective mood. But his trademark intensity begins to show as he warms to the subject: Being a champion means, well, being different.

“I mean, it’s like you make an A on a test and you say, ‘I can take it easy for two weeks and make a C on the next test and have a B average.’ That’s normal,” he says. “It’s special for somebody to make an A on the test and say, ‘I’m going to try to make the highest grade ever in the class.’ That’s not normal. But yet, that’s what you have to try to promote from a mindset standpoint to the people in your organization.”

The most recent exam Saban aced was the 2017 season—and it was perhaps his greatest triumph yet. The year kicked off with Alabama ranked No. 1. But as the season unfolded, Saban’s team suffered an epidemic of injuries—with starters missing a total of 54 games—and a crushing defeat to archrival Auburn that could have cost the Tide a shot at the College Football Playoff. Given a second chance, Alabama snatched another title in thrilling fashion. Shortly after midnight, minutes into Jan. 9, Alabama’s quarterback, 19-year-old freshman Tua Tagovailoa, stunned the football world when—facing 2nd-and-26 in overtime of the championship game against Georgia—he threw a game-winning, 41-yard laser beam of a touchdown pass to give the Tide a 26–23 victory. Adding to the drama was the fact that at halftime Saban had made a tough call to bench the quarterback who led the team to the title game, Jalen Hurts, in favor of Tagovailoa—a calculated gamble that worked.

The victory gave Saban his fifth national championship in nine years at Alabama. Add an earlier title he won at LSU in 2003, and his six rings match Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most football championships by a college coach in the so-called poll era, dating back to 1936. And he’s won with stunning consistency: Under Saban, Alabama has been ranked No. 1 in 72 of the past 153 Associated Press weekly polls. If imitation is truly flattery, then Saban is much praised: Four of Alabama’s Southeastern Conference rivals—Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M— now employ former Saban assistant coaches as head coach. (Saban has never yet lost a game to one of his disciples.)

“It’s remarkable the run that Alabama has been on, and the common thread in all of it is the head coach: Nick Saban,” says Phil Savage, the author of 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. Now the lead radio analyst for Crimson Tide football games, Savage met Saban when they joined the sta of the Cleveland Browns in 1991. “I mean, he’s had several different coaching staffs now in Tuscaloosa. He’s had different quarterbacks. He’s had different defensive star players. And he does an amazing job of setting the tone from the top down.”

The system that Saban has developed over the years to achieve such success is known as the Process—a methodical, efficient approach to organizational management. In 2012, five seasons and two national championships into his tenure, I wrote about Saban and his Process for Fortune in a piece called “Leadership Lessons from Alabama Coach Nick Saban.” (This is the point in the story where I need to disclose that I’m both an Alabama alumnus and a lifelong fan of the team.) At the time, Saban was facing a new challenge. After impressive turnaround jobs at Michigan State and LSU—and leaving aside a disappointing two-year run with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins—Saban’s quick success at Alabama had cemented his reputation as a master rebuilder of college football programs. The question was, Could he sustain success in one place over a long period? Three additional titles later (plus a couple of near misses), the answer is a resounding yes.

I returned to campus this spring in search of Saban’s secret: How has he managed to navigate the sports version of what Clayton Christensen famously dubbed the “Innovator’s Dilemma”—the fact that success makes it hard to keep the edge you need to win in the future?

Sure, it helps to be at a traditional football powerhouse with a seemingly unlimited budget and resources (Exhibit A: Alabama’s pristine, 36,000-square-foot weight room). But the most powerful explanation is this: Saban has always been relentlessly committed to self-disruption. His Process may look rigid from the outside, but it relies on constant analysis of what’s working, or not, and an aggressive embrace of new methods when necessary. “I hate it when somebody says, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’ It drives me absolutely up a wall,” says Saban.

The coach’s willingness to constantly evolve can be seen both on and off the field. As college football has moved to spread offenses in recent years, for instance, Saban changed both his offensive approach (faster pace, more use of spacing) and defensive recruiting (to target quicker, more agile athletes).

Saban is also open to using technology to gain an edge. A few years ago Alabama began using a GPS system from a company called Catapult to track the performance and workload of its players. Comparing, say, a player’s top speed or acceleration in practice with his past performance can help determine if he’s getting worn down late in the season. After Alabama lost to Clemson in the final minute of last year’s championship game, Saban felt his team was tired. So before this year’s playoff , he asked head trainer Jeff Allen to crunch the GPS numbers. The data showed that, indeed, the Tide had seen a drop-off in overall performance against Clemson. Saban studied the results and decided to adjust his traditionally rigorous postseason practice routine to keep the players fresher. This year, it was Alabama that won on the last play.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the time and effort Saban puts into understanding his players. He studies the psychological profile of every one for clues on how to connect with and coach them. “Some people would look at it like it’s a pain in the ass, you know? But I don’t,” says Saban. “I enjoy seeing if I can get somebody to respond, even if they’re a little bit abnormal and abstract in how they view the world. Well, how can I reach this person to get them to do things that are going to benefit them, but also benefit the organization?”

How much longer can Saban keep pushing past normal? At the parade in January to celebrate the most recent title, Saban concluded his speech with three words: “We’re not finished…” Behind him, the players shouted in unison: “Yet!” That might be a clue.

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