June 28, 2019
This week, we're deep-diving into professional sports leagues and teams' use of data and emerging tech to elevate the game: improve player performance, enhance fans' experiences and potentially even monetize in new ways.
Then, we'll look at the #Slacklash, investigate 3 challenges corporate social innovators face (and potential solutions to those problems) and close by considering imaginary time travel as a leadership tool to help improve corporate decision-making.
Focus: Athletes and Nerds Collaborate on the Field
Sports science and analytics have become core elements of successful sports teams’ strategies over the past few years. Football, baseball and basketball teams provide interesting examples of how data is changing the way the game is played — and perhaps offer enterprises and media companies the opportunity to find new approaches to their products, services and workflows.
IMPROVE THE GAME AND PLAYERS
In 2012, the Seahawks were the first NFL franchise to establish a sports science group. Today, they maintain their advantage against other NFL squads (most of whom have established their own sports science or analytics arms by now) by continuing to embrace new technologies and performing their own analyses. Similarly, many NHL teams are also using technology to track both pucks' and players' movements in an effort to give coaches new data-driven resources to improve performance.
Since Oakland Athletics began using their sabermetrics approach in 2002, baseball teams have become sophisticated data-collecting and data-crunching organizations that track games in stunning detail. Rapsodo — a technology that uses machine-learning algorithms to track pitchers’ velocity, spin rate, spin efficiency, pitch break and spin axis as well as ball speed, distance travelled and spin rates — was first trialled during the 2016 season, and is now used by 29 of 30 MLB teams, over 100 individual MLB players and over 500 colleges and 400 baseball academies.
This season’s NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors aside, the Golden State Warriors (GSW) remain a NBA fairytale, transforming a once-moribund franchise into a powerhouse team. Data science has played an important role in GSW’s turnaround, beginning with the team’s change of ownership in 2010, which ushered in the GSW “Data-era.”
IMPROVE THE EXPERIENCE
The fan experience is also being transformed by technology that’ll change how we watch sports, interact with physical stadiums and even how we plan our vacations around sports tourism. Read about watching the NBA Playoffs in VR,learn about soccer teams’ digitization of their fans’ experiences in stadiums, check out the unusual partnership between the World Tourism Organization, Barça Innovation Hub and the Qatar National Tourism Council(for even more on what Barcelona’s been doing, check out this FT piece) and learn about ESPN's deployment of fancy MLB-level technology such as 4D Replay in its coverage of the 2019 College World Series.
Underscoring just how much tech is permeating live sports experiences, consider that even Wimbledon — one of the world's most staunchly traditionalist sporting competitions — is using AI to enhance spectators' experiences and give them a taste of the game through Jaguar’s new Ace Pace Wimbledon Edition app.
As data science and analytics become increasingly embedded into the sports experience for both players and fans, questions around and the monetization of sports teams’ information (about both players and fans) have arisen.
With 500,000 organizations using it for free and 90,000 users paying for its service, Slack is the workplace communication tool of choice in certain industries (we’re looking at you, media and tech).
However, the #Slacklash has come in full force, with think pieces criticizing Slack for stressing workers out, robbing workers of their privacy and hurting workplace productivity. While Slack also has its defenders, the increasing criticism of the platform has led to a proliferation of anti-Slacks and Slack apps trying to iterate upon and improve the Slack idea or cut through the noise on Slack itself.
Thanks to an increasing sense of urgency of social responsibility and the profit potential associated with finding innovative solutions to societal problems, companies increasingly regard social and environmental problems as opportunities to develop new products, services and markets.
However, most corporations fail to achieve innovations with both business and societal payoffs due to three main organizational challenges: 1) inability to meet organizational preferences for higher profit and lower uncertainty, 2) the double-edged sword of an internal suspicion that corporate social innovators are pushing philanthropic activities instead of “real business” and external skepticism driven by a belief that corporate innovators are purely profit-motivated and 3) a lack of a dedicated home and resources.
To help corporate social innovators overcome these challenges, corporations should work with corporate social innovators to establish clear targets (both financial and social) for their initiatives, provide executive support to win skeptics over and reinforce the company’s true social motives.