Let's watch a bunch of Intel employees draw a lot of silly corporate lessons from the failure of one really good basketball team to beat another really good basketball, shall we? First, here's an executive's blog post, written on the company's internal site and passed along by a tipster. We've left off her name:

What Intel Can Learn from Miami Heat's Recent Loss

06-27-2011 11:20 AM

It is no secret that I am a huge basketball fan and went through a bit of melancholy after my beloved Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs this year. My folks will tell you that I often use sports analogies and metaphors to drive discussion and learning. As I watched the Dallas Mavericks overcome the Miami Heat to win the National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship recently, I began to think about what can be learned beyond this professional sport. For those who do not follow the NBA, the Miami Heat, by all statistics, is a far more talented team than Dallas. They have arguably one of the best players (second to my favorite Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, of course) playing along-side two of the other best players in the history of the sport. Dallas had one superstar and a supporting cast. So why is it that the best talent doesn't always win? Because in my mind, the best cannot always be evaluated solely on statistics anymore than GPA or school of attendance, and even when you do have the undisputed "best"; that does not ensure the team can come together and win.

In Miami's case, their great talent just couldn't come together and collaborate with clarity of roles, responsibilities and the ability to adjust to critical game situations to achieve success under pressure. In short, they lost to a team that had inferior individual talent but one that collaborated much better to become a superior team. Miami reminds us that being great as an individual doesn't always translate into helping your team win at the end of the day. Greatness is often defined by one's ability to deliver when it's all on the line. Sometimes greatness is just flat out who can step up when the pressure is the greatest; and, as we have found in many instances, that is where many of the ‘statistics' of success just go out the window. It's why students that had to work their way through engineering school graduating with a 3.0 GPA often will come through and deliver under pressure better than students that didn't work nearly as hard and achieved a 3.8 GPA. And finally, in teams having too much of a specific attribute at the expense of another doesn't provide you with the best of the full spectrum anymore than an orchestra could get with having only great flutists. You need the best of many areas to come together and win. And the best does not just come in one dimension.

At Intel, we realize that we must improve our collaboration and move faster to win in the new growth markets. It is not just our great talent, but the mix of our talent and how it is used and leveraged that will foster innovation for the global marketplace. As we look to serve customers from around the world, we will continue to be challenged to ensure we have the best mix of talent who understands their needs. Talent that brings a level of diversity that will help us understand how to deliver value to customers who are ethnically and geographically diverse. Customers who are as much women as men and young as old, which is why diversity is the critical ingredient to our success moving forward.

So here is to my beloved Lakers improving the collective mix of their talent to win next year and to us here at Intel for continuing our focus on diversity and inclusion to win now.

Now let's go to the comments. We've redacted the names here as well:

06-27-2011 11:33 AM
Interesting read

06-27-2011 11:47 AM
Hmmm...... interesting. What's more effective? A whole team of PhDs? Or a few PhDs surrounded by a cast of exceptionally bright people with tactical expertise in getting the job done???

06-27-2011 12:00 PM
I think you are over estimating the talent of the heat, no way are wade and bosch even in the top 50 of the best players in the history of the sport. The mavericks bench was better, coaching was better, and they play in tougher conference

06-27-2011 12:22 PM
That's usual at sports, at any sports.... The interesting fact in the blog is the idea of doing this comparison between sports and real work life. Sometimes the most valuable player, is the one that is unnoticed, the one with a low profile. The history showed us how a simple patent clerk, were one of the greatest minds in the modern history. So then, there is when you can see how the titles, grades, attendance and that kind of issues (being important too), are not from great help, if they don't show the real genious behind the papers: the creativity, leadership, partnership, the innovative ideas, worker. We have to show the best of ourselves, and don't hide behind the papers and believe that having them will let us escape from giving the best of ourselves.

06-27-2011 12:28 PM
Maybe avoid holding a prime-time special to announce one's plans to move to another team. :)

With all the talk about LeBron not performing in the 4th quarter, an analogy can be applied that we need to stay committed to the very end. It doesn't matter if you personally meet an interim milestone. It only counts if the project hits the final goals such as going to production on time or getting that important design win or resolving the last customer issue.

06-27-2011 12:35 PM
We really need a 'Like' button under each comment hehe

06-27-2011 12:45 PM
Thank you for putting pen to paper on this exact topic. I was thinking the exact same thing when Michael Wilbhan and Irvine Johnson were trying to put to words the reason for Miami's defeat. I think you hit the head on this one, great read.

06-27-2011 12:47 PM
So True, [name redacted] - a team of superstars does not equal to Winning.

By the way, I live in Dallas, but I am a Celtics fan :-)

06-27-2011 12:48 PM
I really drink the Cool-aid you're serving, great read.

06-27-2011 1:14 PM
Nice post. I particularly like the orchestra analogy; it really illustrates the point!

06-27-2011 1:55 PM
As a Trail Blazers fan, it's difficult for me to believe that any Laker fan could put forth a cogent argument, but you did :) Teamwork won the championship for Dallas not individual talent (with the exception of Dirk. He's a hall of famer). I couldn't have been happier as I am not a fan of LeBron. He is second most loathed next to Kobe. I digress. Your point to valid, we have to work as a collective team and not in group silos competeting with each other. We need to provide incentives (monitary or otherwise) to encourage collaboration. We definitely don't reward employees for it now.

06-27-2011 4:07 PM
I love this. Its good to know someone out there thinks exactly as I do...EXACTLY!

06-27-2011 4:17 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with the charge to be a more agile Intel team.

John Chambers, Cisco CEO visited Intel in Jan. '10 and said it took Cisco six years to become "collaborative. We were 90% command and control. Today we are 80% collaborative". They made painful systemic changes because they valued collaboration and "got it". planetblue.ith.intel.com/.../is-quot-collaboration-the-future-of-companies-quot-john-chambers-cisco.aspx

I expect and welcome greater systemic change at Intel. In the meantime, we can continue to collaborate using what I think is the most scalable tool we have—this one.

06-28-2011 2:37 PM
Or the Maverick just got lucky and played very well. The did after all not only beat the Lakers but utterly detroyed them. I think it's unfare to compare the Mavericks only against Heat. The Heat wasn't the only team that played the Mavericks and Lost. They did however win 2 more then the Lakers ;)

06-28-2011 3:26 PM
I have only one thing to say... Go Blazers!!

06-28-2011 3:43 PM
Hmmm. Why do we always compare to sports figures, actors, politicians, and other such amusing but essentially useless people? How about comparing to the TECHNICAL team that developed the atomic bomb (whatever you think of it) in about 3 years? How about the TECHNICAL team that put a man on the moon in about 8 years?

06-28-2011 4:06 PM
Good one, coach!

06-28-2011 4:20 PM
The Miami's Heat recent NBA championship loss demonstrated that arrogance often leads to downfall.

06-28-2011 4:30 PM
I think if the Miami Heat coach (Erik Spoelstra), can't figure out how to beat a zone defense in the NBA with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, he's more to blame for that loss than anyone else.

06-28-2011 4:39 PM
Despite possessing more (obvious) physical and natural talent, a team is unlikely to come on top if such talent is not consistently committed to delivering from start to the end. (ref. LJ disappearing act in 4th quarter). Also, talent that is not optimally applied and distributed can lead to chaotic/individual showmanship that is disruptive to any team gameplan implementation (ref. individual dribbling and absurd choice of shots). Of course, talent does not necessarily equate (or create) leadership especially in times of duress. Finally, talent may have no correlation to desire and determination, especially when arrogance and indolence are readily available.

06-28-2011 4:57 PM
Love your blog post [name redacted]!

Triggered the following thought for me…..where did they find their talent? If you look at the rosters, their talent ‘from' is very diverse.



So where do you look for that Intel talent, when it comes to college recruiting (for example)?

How do we build future Intel "break away" teams?

My thought, I probably wouldn't be looking where every other competitor is looking.

06-28-2011 5:03 PM
i totally agree

GPA doesn't really count for much

what counts right now is how motivated are you?

it can come from all people

don't underestimate anyone

06-28-2011 5:20 PM
Posts like this sadden me, but I feel this is common at Intel. I've done a lot of recruiting and hiring at Intel, and many times we choose not to look for the best. We should want great talent, not look for reasons to not find the best talent. The Dallas Mavericks weren't exactly a group of untalented individuals - they have two of probably the greatest players to ever play the game in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

It's not an either/or to choose between great talent and great teamwork. We should be looking for both. They are not mutually exclusive.

06-28-2011 5:21 PM
[Name redacted], great blog and way to title it to draw people to read it. I strongly agree with the teaching moments that you obtained from Miami's loss. There are so many analogies to draw from those playoffs from being arrogant, not sticking to the script, to not realizing that the team is stronger than any individual. I know you had a limit to write, but I would agree with [commenter name redacted] and [commenter name redacted] that there was an opportunity to add what can happen when you don't have a prepared and capable coach, or in our world a competent and experienced people manager/leader. I too believe that it was the #1 reason why the Heat didn't win. Let's make sure it isn't ours.

06-28-2011 5:27 PM
Great point, and I totally agree !!!!!

Like Detroit Pistons beat LA Lakers in 2004!!!

Team work wins!!!

06-28-2011 5:34 PM
The Miami Heat are structurally flawed; LeBron and Wade are identical players playing identical roles. It's hard to win a championship if the best two players on a team just take turns instead of dynamically playing off one another. It's a sad sight to see the best player in the world stand in a corner and just watch. The team has too many chefs. Either the players will have to accept new roles or they should be moved.

06-28-2011 5:35 PM
I'm confused why you waited for the Heat Mavericks championship when there are several examples of someone named Kobe Bryant putting himself first instead of the team to their detriment :)

06-28-2011 5:56 PM
"playing along-side two of the other best players in the history of the sport."

I think you are giving those guys, especially Bosh, way too much credit...

06-28-2011 6:07 PM
Miami Lost because of overconfidence and Dallas figured their strategy. You can not have 2 or 3 top leaders in a team. Again great talent but you have too much similar talent that was not used properly. Their coach had the same strategy that was easily figured out by Dallas and he did not know how to adjust. While watching the series, I did not know who was the lead player during the series from the Miami side.. I also think LBJ did not know also... May be they should have a diverse talent and a better coach.

What we can learn from this? You have to have a mix of talent in your team: the numbers guys/gals, the visual guys/gals, a visionary leader, the social people, and yeah... top talent does not hurt either. And wait, diverse your talent, do not make it all the same!

06-28-2011 6:17 PM
Good read, I am going to bias here and say that the title ought to be what Intel can learn from the Dallas Maverick.

On the new market that we are trying to get too the talented top dogs are in the the existing market leader, we do have one superstar that is extremely good in raw processing power but a bit lacking in terms power consumption just like Dirk who is a monstrous offensive powerhouse but only a pretty decent defender.

06-28-2011 8:32 PM
Agree - Miami had too many alphas, while the Mavs played a team sport, capitalizing on Dirk's good form.

06-28-2011 8:47 PM
great point of view!

06-28-2011 8:56 PM
good post, could you also analyze the reason why Laker didn't fly in last season?

06-29-2011 2:15 AM
Agree! A team is much more than a goup of talented.

06-29-2011 5:17 AM
great teamwork analogy, [name redacted]! in sports the better team almost always wins, and say what you will about the individual players - Dallas was a better TEAM. in the 15+ years i have been with intel, we have strived to stress diversity and team efforts - be it in development or manufacturing - and so far it has translated into 'champoionships'. here's to keeping the streak going...

06-29-2011 5:45 AM
Well said. Really gets us to reflect on what it means to be a team. It's not only the players; it's the "energy" they bring to the game.

06-29-2011 6:01 AM
I dont think you can buy a great team (i.e only use superstars) any more than you can buy a new market segment. Talent is a key ingredient for sure, but so are flexibility, agility and the will to win. So if you want to beat a top team, definitely get an insirational coach who knows how to build a winning team in the first place. I'm not coinvinced that's down to qualifications. Track record's a better measure in my opinion. BTW due to the recession there are some great peopleout there who are unmemployed due

to no fault of their own

06-29-2011 7:50 AM
agree and interesting to read. Go Heat!

06-29-2011 7:59 AM
Team work always wins!

By the way, when the Miami Heat introduced the "trio" last year, LBJ said they are not going to win 1, 2, 3, 4, 5..... championships. He forgot Zero.

For diversity, Lakers should add a few team members from The Sparks. May be then they can win as a team. :-)

Go "Team" Blazers!!

06-29-2011 8:20 AM
Regarding the basketball part I have to say [commenter name redacted] post is right on and I'd also would observe that superior talent usually does in on the field of sport.

Regarding diversity I agree - with diversity comes strength but Intel doesn't push diversity so much as it does hiring from three specific groups. We consider African Americans (including non Americans of African descent), Hispanic and Technical Females as diverse. We exclude all others from the label of diversity. We lump all Asians into one category which represents about 2/5th - 3/5th of the world population. I won't list the other 100+ groups that are not included.

I live diversity but at work I merly achieve goals that are labeled as diversity.

06-29-2011 8:22 AM
In LeBron's case, there is no need to include him in any conversation including college. He wouldn't have made it in NCAA ball anyway. Even those players have to show up for finals.

Go Cavs.

06-29-2011 8:23 AM
Regarding the basketball part I have to say [commenter name redacted] post is right on and I'd also would observe that superior talent usually does win on the field of sport.

Regarding diversity I agree - with diversity comes strength but Intel doesn't push diversity so much as it does hiring from three specific groups. We consider African Americans (including non Americans of African descent), Hispanic and Technical Females as diverse. We exclude all others from the label of diversity. We lump all Asians into one category which represents about 2/5th - 3/5th of the world population. I won't list the other 100+ groups that are not included.

I live diversity but at work I merly achieve goals that are labeled as diversity.

06-29-2011 8:42 AM
In April 2011, Fast Company did an article on the Miami Heat and how they can teach us about "TEAMWORK." hmmm...maybe they should have waited until after the Finals (in June 2011) to release this article. Congrats Mavericks!!! Go Team Team Team!


06-29-2011 9:23 AM
I understand the underlying goal of this piece about the value of team over individuals. It is a noble and relevant goal. I do subscribe to it. But using a six game sample size in a sport where they play 100+ games is not a valid example. It is selection bias. Some basketball experts would say that the Chicago Bulls were a team of inferior talent but superior collaboration that the Heat. The Heat won that series in five games!

Using sports metaphors for real life situations and work situations is fine. But we need to truly understand what factors cause teams to win and not use incorrect metrics to make our point. If the Lakers added Dwight Howard and won the championship next year, what would that ,ean to the hypothesis here? If teamwork pays off over talented indiviudals, why are the top stars trying to land in spots where there already exist superstars (e.g. Carmelo Anthony/Lebron James) ?

06-29-2011 9:26 AM
The only thing I learnt was...It is just a game :-)

06-29-2011 9:37 AM
I'm a huge Laker fan as well... it was hard to see them eliminated. This is a very good read and lesson. thanks for sharing.

06-29-2011 10:37 AM
Classic case of [name redacted] using data to support a predetermined conclusion. I am neither a Dallas or Heat fan but Dallas is a team of superstars or Ph.D.s of basketball as you will. Nowitzki-NBA All-Star & MVP, Chandler-NBA All-Star, US Team, McDonald's All-American, Terry-All-American, 6th man of the year, Butler-US Team, NBA All Star, Haywood-US Team, NBA All-Star, Kidd-All-American college, McDonald's All-American, NBA All Star, US Team, Olympic Gold Medalist, Marion-All American, JUCO Hall of Fame, NBA All-Star, US Team...and the list goes on with Dallas. Compare that to Miami and you will it doesn't compare. I would hardly call any of these player's 3.0 GPA equivalent, but more of a team of superstars.


Kudos to that last commenter and homeboy at 9:23 a.m. — hey, 3:43 p.m.? Chill out, Oppenheimer — but it's too bad no one points out an alternate narrative of LeBron and the Heat: a superstar leaving the employ of a colossal prick and taking a pay cut to join his friends elsewhere. That's Intel's story, after all.

Did your boss, teacher, or life partner draw any pat, self-congratulatory lessons from the Miami Heat's failure? Tell us about it: tips@deadspin.com.