Given that our Boston-based partners at Avalon are avid sports fans, we are fortunate in that we are experiencing an unusually high level of professional sports success in our city right now, with a possible 8th championship in 12 years across four major sports within reach.  As I write this, the Boston Bruins Hockey Club is playing in the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons and is on a roll.

One of the interesting stories on the Bruins is that of 41-year old Jaromir Jagr.  Jagr won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins twenty one years ago.  In a profession where the average career is about three years, this is remarkable.  Over this time frame, the National Hockey League (NHL) has evolved on many different dimensions, including:

  • Number of Competitors – In 1991-92 the NHL had just added their 22nd team, in contrast to the 30 teams in the league today;
  • Technology – New technologies, such as hockey sticks made from fiberglass, composites or titanium instead of wood, have been introduced into the game;
  • Rules and Regulations – Many rule changes have been introduced, such as two-line passes to create more breakaway opportunities, but none as impactful from a business standpoint as the introduction of a spending limit for teams in the form of a salary cap; and,
  • Key Activities – offenses and defenses have evolved over the last twenty years in the NHL, and players are generally faster, better conditioned and more highly skilled due to better youth systems and education in/application of best practices in nutrition, skills development and conditioning.

Jagr is still playing in part because he has evolved along with the changes in the market and, in particular, has embraced the Bruins’ defense-first style of play that has proven successful in the current NHL market environment.  Moreover, in an industry where egos run rampant, Jagr has accepted a pay package that is commensurate with his contributions and fits within the mandated salary cap structure; he has not let his Hall of Fame credentials and past glory days skew the reality of what type of player he now is.

In the more mundane, but no less exciting, industries that Avalon typically works in such as antennas, adhesives, and controls, an attention to the details of how your competition and markets are evolving is just as critical to success.  The best companies will regularly evaluate their surrounding environment, assess the implications of any changes, and be prepared to act appropriately and rationally ahead of their competition as needed.  Unlike the NHL, however, sometimes these environmental changes, such as the introduction of a disruptive technology, entirely change the game that you are playing.

Understanding and effectively applying the Art of Strategy can be the difference between enduring, successful growth and the negative consequences of showing up for the proverbial basketball game with a hockey stick.