October 23, 2019

Shane Battier — The Data Translator

I’m a big fan of the Wharton People Analytics Conference that I’ll be attending in the next few days. Based on my previous experience, I’m sure there will be many stories to tell… a session from a previous conference has influenced how we’re introducing our new product: Coach.

The session was with Shane Battier. Two time NBA champion and former member of the US national team. What really interested me was how Shane had won the Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. This is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award that recognises the league’s “ideal teammate” who exemplifies “selfless play and commitment and dedication to his team”. Shane told us part of his secret…

He was the data translator.

Shane described that in the modern era most teams are given significant amounts of information on opposing teams. In a post money-ball age there’s the investment and interest to apply data. The data often arrives in big statistics heavy packs for each team member but as Shane pointed out, consuming data doesn’t come naturally to many players and the insight gets lost. Yet Shane was willing to invest. He became “teammate of the year” through assuming the role of “data translator” in two key steps:

  1. He did his own homework and applied insight from his packs so that he could better anticipate game plays. Team mates remarked at his anticipation not recognising the information was available in the packs they also received pregame. But they didn’t change their behaviour. The data was still too much to absorb for most.
  2. He started to assume the role of the data translator for the team. He would read his teammates pregame packs and drip feed appropriate information at the right moment through the game. He could convert pre game statistics packs into useful advice on court.

This struck me. What an exceptional talent to be able to read data and then apply it in one of the most competitive sporting arenas in the world.How could we translate this to teamwork within business? We kept Shane’s data translator role in mind throughout the development of Coach:

  1. Coach should be able to give people the information they need at the time they needed. In our research — like the game plans — we found loads of fantastic advice to teams, but it’s not there in their moment of need. We want to fix that problem. We need to give teams information at the right time in a format they can absorb.
  2. Teams using coach should have a buddy. The role of the Buddy is to act like Shane. Help team members less familiar with the data understand the implications. We can make the information as simple as possible to access and understand but we still believe that having a Shane in the teams that can provide an extra boost!

Some great, practical application of previous Wharton conference content. Looking forward to more this week!

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