How To Think A Thought You’ve Never Had Before

“Ask yourself what is a thought I’ve never had before, philosophize with yourself- reverse your position – disrupt convention” Joey Reimar (author Thinking For A Living)

My wife and I are grand-dog parents. Our daughter and her husband drop “coaster” off with us one in awhile for a few days and sometimes our schedules conflict with grand-dog care, which is how I discovered Dog Hotels. You may not know they’re a thing but they are and we love them. Having once been a pastor and realizing that more and more couples are choosing dogs over kids – I began to wonder why churches aren’t offering doggie care along with child care on Sundays and taking that one step further why shouldn’t they go into business and offer doggie day care during the week for the people who have come to trust them on Sundays?

Cross-domain thinking has become an obsession for me . I first realized that this type of thinking was a “thing” after reading NUTS the story of Southwest Airlines and its’ founder Herb Kelleher. As someone who thought of himself as being part of a cutting edge movement (the church) I was astounded by how much we had to learn from an airline, of all things, about focus, innovation and the strategic advantage of having fun. You may not appreciate my comparison (which is why you need to find your own domain comparison) but the lesson still stands – if you want to improve your domain study someone else’s.

That’s how you think a thought you’ve never had before.

When it comes to high level cross-domain thinking there’s no one I admire more than my high school teacher friend and colleague in Friday Harbor Washington. Jeff Smith. Jeff is one of the most inquisitive and fluid thinkers I know. Jeff sends out periodic missives born out of his voracious appetite for reading, his love of basketball, how to improve education and his lifelong curiosity about what it means to follow Jesus.

Get on his mailing list. Cross-domain thinking will suddenly come into focus for you and you’ll find yourself thinking thoughts you’ve never thought before and innovating inside your own domain in new ways.

Here’s The Jeff Smith newsletter, which in the spirit of true domain crossing is titled: Basketball, Newspapers and Dustbowls

“It surprises me how different things run together.  I’m listening to a great book, Becoming Dallas Willard.  So far I’ve listened through his childhood and he just graduated high school.  He grew up in the Missouri Ozarks during the Dust Bowl.

Then this morning, trying to finish coffee before heading to school, I ran across this article outlining how good the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors are on defense.  

Capping it off was this politico article on how newspapers die.

I’ll summarize the NBA and the newspapers article and then show some parallels.

I love basketball, but I don’t watch NBA until the college season ends.  Why?  Because I think college plays harder night in and night out.  NBA playoffs are different.  Separated from the 82-game grind and often playing against their season’s end, the NBA starts to look a lot more like college – in my opinion.

Also in my opinion, there are only 3 teams (SA, GS, Houston, Celtics maybe next year) that

1) play hard and as a team

2) at both ends of the floor.

Playing hard, to me, means that your players are working hard for most of the 48 minutes.  It means proper defensive position, constant offensive movement, rebounding etc. – the lunch-pail stuff that’s never on Sports-center post-game.  Both ends of the floor is what the 538 article is about.  Golden State and Houston are the two best offensive teams in the NBA – it’s not close.  Both teams consistently put five players on the floor who can literally score from anywhere.  (Very few teams, even in the NBA, can say that – even of their starters.).  The Warriors and Rockets have deep offensive benches – which, translated, means all players are dangerous and you leave them alone at your peril.

Which brings us to the pick and roll.  NBA offenses live off of mismatches.  If I’m big (and thus slow), you want me trying to guard your super-quick guard.  If I’m small and quick, you want your big, nasty post backing me into the basket for a dunk.  How to get me to switch?  That’s the $64000 question.  The Rockets’ and Warriors’ answer is the pick and roll.  Hang with me here, and I’ll explain.

The pick and roll is a very simple play where one player, Jim, screens (or blocks) for another player, Victor.  The defense has to ‘switch’.  If they don’t, either Victor’s open for the shot or Jim’s open on the roll (going to the basket).  ** The pick and pop is where Jim steps out to the 3-point line (instead of toward the basket) and hits a 3 on a the recovering defender.

How do you defend the pick and roll?  That question gets put to every NBA defense every night, almost every single play. The Cavaliers – getting sliced and diced almost every play – are exhibit A of what NOT to do vs. the pick & roll.  The Warriors & Rockets switch – thus making the pick irrelevant.  But to switch you need versatile players – bigs that can defend on the perimeter and smalls that can defend the paint (near the basket).  The reason the real NBA championship starts tonight is because these two teams can and do switch everything – and they do it well.

With the 3 point line, the NBA has completely changed and you have to defend (esp. in the Rockets/Warriors cases) all portions of the floor.  They do this better than any other team.  Houston has gone full 3ptrs from anywhere – even more than the Warriors.  They will (and do) shoot it from anywhere anytime.

So, despite all the offensive explosion potential from both sides, it’ll boil down to defending the pick and roll.  Possession after possession after possession.

Which brings us to newspapers and how they die.  The politico article chronicles how Randall Smith (vulture or venture capitalist – depending on your view) is “harvesting market position”.  Newspaper subscribers -that have remained subscribers – are incredibly loyal and old.  They like their paper on their rest-home breakfast tray and they don’t really care how much it costs or its collapsing quality.  Randall Smith is getting those loyalists to pay until they die – harvesting the newspaper’s position in the minds of those loyal subscribers, while lowering costs.

Here’s where I think the two articles intersect: all other 30 NBA teams don’t have enough multi-defenders.  That is, they can’t switch every screen without worrying about it.  Newspapers can’t (or haven’t) switched either.  They’ve proven anti-versatile – what Nassim Taleb would call fragile.  Dallas Willard’s family in Missouri was economically fragile in a similar way.  Add the dust bowl to insect invasions and they were done – like newspapers and the other 30 NBA teams that aren’t GS or Houston.

I think we have to emulate the Houston Rockets.  They’ve grown more versatile and more ‘multi’ as they’ve lost the past few years to Golden State.  Instead of crossing their arms and pouting, they’ve grown to look more like the Warriors – not less.

What does ‘multi’ look like for you?

3 Musings:

1) Doing more of what you like to do – a la the Rockets, shoot more 3’s not less.

2) Extend the scoring zone.  The Rockets realized that most of their opponents were practicing on defending them at the 3 point line, so they started practicing their shooting drills 10 feet behind the line.

3) Consistently Great.  What makes the series tonight worth watching is not just the talent – although both teams are loaded.  The reason I’ll DVR every game is because I’ll want to go back and watch how hard they play – even into the summer when I’m waiting for college football.  Both of these teams have been habitually great (in Golden States’ case it extends back years).  So when it gets wacky – and it will – they dig back into a reserve already won. Build up your reserves

The Rockets and Warriors are meeting each other strength to strength, pick by pick. They’re anti-fragile.”

Ask Jeff to be put on his mailing list jeffuson@gmail.com

Jim Hancock