mercredi 3 octobre 2018

Ice Storm by Bruce Dowbiggin

The Rise and fall of the greatest Vancouver Canucks team ever

Innovation is a question of perspective and turning the tables. In such a tight market for talent, you needed to look beyond the conventional means of thinking. In hockey, people have not wanted to go beyond their experience to find new solutions. 

Ice Storm is the story of Mike Gillis, ex-NHL winger with the Boston Bruins who cut his teeth in the business side of hockey as an agent, and his 6-year tenure as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Gillis is a fascinating character that leaves no one uninterested. Some perceive him as a heretic in the church of hockey. Others have crowned him the league’s GM of the Year in the 2010-2011 season. That year, the fortieth-anniversary campaign of the Vancouver Canucks, under Gillis leadership, proved to be the franchise greatest season in history to date.

Ice Storm is all about this paradox, the space between two extreme perceptions and the innovative mindset Mike Gillis brought to the game of hockey.

Lessons on the rise, preventing the storm

It all starts at the top

In the Canucks context, the top is Francesco Aquilini, the eldest son of three boys, the public face of the family that represents the Italian face of Vancouver. The Aquilini Investment Group has become very wealthy with successful real estate developments across Canada. Francesco is a hard-nosed negotiator and a force not to be crossed. He thinks of the franchise brand as a system and the key to the strategy is having a winning team to sell. To create a winner was going to take a new approach. It's about leadership. Someone who's willing to step up, take a chance, that's the kind of person you want. You don't want someone who takes the safe route. 

Mike Gillis and Francesco Aquilini

Safe is death

I am not doing this job to get another job in hockey. I'm going to do it the way I think is right, or I'm not going to do it all. 

Mike Gillis believes that safe is death in pro sports. The one thing that Mike Gillis brings is a real progressive outlook. He's looking for new, creative and innovative ways to give himself a competitive advantage. Mike is very sure of his vision. I played on a lot of teams that had the 'No Plan Plan'. We're going to be big this year. Next year, we're going to be skilled. If you jump around like that, you have no chance. You can't win. You can adjust, but at the core you have to believe in one way to play.

The epitome of that thinking is Billy Beane, the Oakland A's GM and the star of Moneyball, the famous Michael Lewis book. He is often referenced as well as an inspiration in Ice Storm. Gillis constantly re-evaluated the state of play in his sport and business, asking, "Can we do better?" 

Their willingness to open new windows in a dark room made them a big target. Even when his critics in the Vancouver and Toronto media mocked him for exploring new concepts, he put his faith in the unconventional concept called Canucktivity. 

Mike Gillis, NHL General Manager of the Year in 2011


You used to know how other teams operated. Now you have to reverse-engineer what they did to see how they do it. Mark Cuban

Canucktivity took years of crafting, leveraging knowledge, insights and insider data from his career as a player and as an agent, notably representing ex-Canuck super star Pavel Bure. Gillis knew what players really wanted in the Vancouver market. He knew the needs, the pains. The team consulted sleep experts about travel, dietitians about better eating, sports psychologists about stress, they redid the dressing room. The team also experimented with yoga, fight or flight patterns, endorphins and consulted with the Nike evaluation camp in Oregon. Francesco Aquilini even hired Bruno Demichelis away from Chelsea FC in 2012. Gillis used the team as a laboratory to challenge the conventional. Players understood the franchise was investing in them as well as in the team. 

Gillis created a program of understanding, built a database of research, previously not applied to hockey, that could give it a significant and dramatic advantage over its opponents. If all went well, the Canucks could then assemble the research and market their techniques while remaining ahead of the opposition. The objective of Canucktivity was for Vancouver to become a destination for hockey players choosing teams in both conditions the players had, but also in the style they played.

Establish your benchmark

The best teams discovered innovation and spent accordingly.

In the almost twenty years that he represented players, Gillis swore that, if given a chance to run a team, he'd use Detroit's example of skill at the expense of brawling and physical play.

Lidstrom and Holland, pillars in Detroit

The Detroit Red Wings probably spend about seven dollars on the offices says TSN analyst Ray Ferraro. They put all the money into scouting and development. I played in Atlanta, and man, we had great offices. Our team stunk. Where are you going to place your resources? You've got a relatively deep-pocketed owner who's giving you the resources to do things.

Change the culture

Gillis changed the culture inside the Vancouver franchise first. Hope doesn't work in this business. You have to be very in tune of where you are in the curve of winning. It's up to us to create a culture that allows us to continue the process. Neglect drafting and player development, and you'd be forced to go into the expensive free-agent market to get the pieces you need. Rely too heavily on trades - always a 50-50 proposition- and lack the stability in the clubhouse that develops a winning chemistry. It is a balancing act that only the best franchises manage. 

The Sedin twins

The Canucks were to trade heavyweight fighters, a norm in the western conference known for its physicality, for skill and speed. No better players would illustrate that philosophy then the Sedin twins, the cornerstones of the team and foundation of Gillis's financial plan. They were the most important players on the team to establish a culture. I had to be sure they wanted to be the go-to guys who'd lead the team. The Sedin contract allowed us to create a culture about the team, not the individuals. We live in a salary cap world. My position with every player is we're going to pay you the most we can within this context. If it gets beyond a context that doesn't let us win, we may have to take a step sideways, but we're determined to have this plan.

Gillis started to change the culture in the league next. His former client Mike Cammalleri puts it best: There's a deep anti-intellectualism in hockey. There's still an establishment, an old guard in our game. I'm not saying it's bad, but you see his team reflect a newer guard, a newer persona among players. That's probably why they're hated in some quarters.

Lessons on the fall, managing the storm

Resiliency in the face of adversity

Ice Storm's turning point strikes when the Canucks lose in the spring of 2011, in the Stanley Cup Finals, facing the Boston Bruins. I think he just got off the road after Game 7 in 2011. He went from leading with his system to chasing the way other teams, like Boston, do it.

The Boston Bruins win game 7

From that instant, they started compromising on their core philosophy and differentiating concept, Canucktivity. From banking on speed and talent, they morphed to “we need to be tougher to play against.” Despite the fact that the Canucks were just sixty minutes from the Cup, savants were declaring their skill and offensive thrust a failure. The Bruins, went the thinking, had exposed the flaws in the system favoured by Gillis and coach Alain Vigneault. Brawn was in and brainpower was out.

John Tortorella

The last compromise was the curious hiring of John Tortorella to replace Vigneault in 2013. Tortorella is the kind of knee-jerk decision that other organizations make, not the Canucks. He represents a personality type diametrically opposed to Gillis’s core values. He is loud and profane; narcissistic and temperamental. He is emotional to the point of irrationality. Tortorella is so far removed from Gillis and his methods that his hire had to originate from somewhere else, like Canucks ownership.

Adapt to your environment

Some may say Gillis was too ambitious and did not know when to compromise. In hindsight, it is clear his organization wasn’t agile enough to avoid or weather the storm. They were not prepared to adapt to the new rules under the CBA post lock-out in 2012-13 where the cap had to go down from 70M$ to 63.4M$. The team was being forced to pare its payroll by almost 7M$ before the 2013-14 season. Trading Luongo’s ten-year contract would be next to impossible. It would become a major crisis for the Canucks. Ultimately, Canucktivity was doomed by the interminable Roberto Luongo saga.

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, Gillis's Achilles heel, winning the Jennings Trophy during the 2011 NHL Awards

The ultimate sign of distress and perhaps the lowest point for Gillis happened when hockey publications were rating the prospects in Vancouver’s development system twenty-ninth out of thirty. The “window of opportunity” for the Canucks to win the Cup was closing. The combination of Luongo and the franchise inability to develop elite young players made for a perfect storm.

Mike Gillis first round picks in 2013, his last draft, Bo Horvat (7th), and Hunter Shinkaruk (24th)

Ice Storm is a page-turner. Bruce Dowbiggin offers a unique insider of Canucktivity and the profile of a human performance pioneer. Mike Gillis is a corporate strategic designer ahead of his time. While numbers can be manipulated in many ways, you could argue that in fact the Canucks have gone from seventh to second in the NHL in revenues during his time here. Yes, second. 

Unfortunately, Canucktivity was dismissed, like Money Ball at first, because the Canucks never won using it. It can be fairly suggested that their attempt to reimagine what works in the NHL was largely dismissed because they lost a single contest in an otherwise superb season. Since the Stanley Cup final in 2011, the Canucks have not won a playoff game and have since been stuck in rebuild mode.

They fired Gillis in 2014 and hired former NHLer Jim Benning to replace him. After years of trying to be different, the Aquilinis had settled on being like everyone else again. In its latest philosophical lurch, the team was rejecting Gillis’s lab coat in favour of a man who’d helped defeat the 2011 miracle team. The Aquilini’s are now counting on predictable and proven being the answer.

Aquilini (left) and Jim Benning (right) picked the electrifying Quinn Hughes 7th overall last June

The author concludes: There would be much sniping later about “mind rooms” and “travel consultants” but none of the 20/20 hindsight’s invalidates the program Gillis and his staff brought to Vancouver and to the NHL. In many respects, Canucktivity was a notable achievement that outran the volatile Vancouver market for longer than many had predicted when the unknown agent was hired. Its tenets – the management of salary caps, travel, nutrition and player development- still represent a template for a successful operation somewhere else, perhaps a city more open-minded to change than Vancouver. 

Mike Gillis had said that he’s not a serial GM, someone parlaying one hockey job into the next. He stands true to his word, teaching sports law at the University of Victoria since the spring of 2016. Should he accept another opportunity in hockey, you can assume he has his plan in place for how to act. Next time, he won’t be deterred from it. 

By Jean-Philippe Gagnon

vendredi 1 juin 2018

Où sont les joueurs francophones du Tricolore?

C’est comme si l’organisation avait troqué son identité - les joueurs francophones enracinés dans leur milieu – contre une machine économique et de marketing redoutable. Les Canadiens vendent leur marque, leur tradition gagnante, leurs légendes francophones et encaissent les profits, mais ils oublient ce qui en faisait leur distinction : les joueurs francophones au sein de l’équipe.


Jean-Pierre Dupuis, professeur en management aux HEC spécialiste en entreprises multiculturelles signe le génial « Où sont les joueurs francophones du Tricolore? ». Dans cet ouvrage passé complètement sous le radar médiatique, l’auteur fait une analyse fine du statut de l’organisation des Canadiens de Montréal : les Canadiens sont en crise identitaire parce qu’ils se sont distancés d’un avantage compétitif, d’un ADN différenciateur.

Via une rigueur digne d’une publication scientifique, il décortique les stratégies gagnantes de la dernière période de gloire des Canadiens portées par Serge Savard, puis, leur effritement par les directeurs généraux suivants de Réjean Houle au gestionnaire actuel, Marc Bergevin. Savard avait une stratégie cohérente et globale, et il a utilisé tous les moyens à sa disposition pour construire, après quelques années, une équipe comprenant une dizaine de francophones. Il a repêché plus de joueurs francophones que les autres et, surtout, il l’a fait dans les rondes payantes, il a obtenu des joueurs francophones d’impact par les échanges et il a recruté beaucoup de joueurs qui n’avaient pas été repêchés.

Ce que l’on retient

PK Subban et l’homogénéité du noyau de leaders

La recherche d’une efficacité repose sur l’homogénéité d’un groupe d’individus. Elle permet d’obtenir plus facilement une chimie et une cohésion au sein d’une équipe en minimisant les risques de malentendus et de conflits culturels. Dans un club de hockey, c’est encore plus vrai, et la majorité, au sens de ceux détenant le pouvoir, c’est le noyau de leaders. Le principe s’est longtemps appliqué au sein des Canadiens de Montréal avec une équipe dominée par les joueurs francophones.

Depuis la venue de joueurs européens qui ont augmenté grandement la diversité culturelle des équipes, 19 des 25 dernières équipes championnes de la Coupe Stanley avaient une grande homogénéité culturelle quant à leur noyau de joueurs vedettes.

Il n’est pas sûr que les dirigeants et les entraîneurs ne soient conscients de ces enjeux identitaires et culturels. Pour eux, les joueurs partagent tous la même culture, celle du hockey, et cela suffit à créer la cohésion recherchée. C’est le rôle des gestionnaires de travailler pour y arriver.

C’est la raison qui explique l’échange de P.K. Subban à une autre équipe. Il était trop différent, trop original. Comme leader potentiel, il ne contribuait pas, selon la direction des Canadiens, à cette fameuse « chimie » d’équipe. Il prenait trop de place pour les mauvaises raisons, selon le directeur général Marc Bergevin et l’ex-entraîneur Michel Therrien, qui sont des « hommes de hockey » très traditionnels pour ne pas dire conservateurs.

Une idée jadis un gage de succès

Depuis le milieu des années 1950, les Canadiens n’ont jamais gagné la coupe Stanley avec moins de neuf joueurs francophones réguliers dans l’équipe et le plus souvent avec dix et plus. Il ne s’agit pas de soutenir qu’il est impossible pour les Canadiens de gagner sans un tel nombre de francophones, ils l’ont déjà fait avec seulement quatre ou cinq joueurs à quelques reprises (1944, 1946 et 1953), mais force est de constater que depuis le milieu des années 1950 ce fut toujours le cas. Il s’agit d’un atout non négligeable qui crée un cercle vertueux dans l’équipe et dans le public : les joueurs francophones se soutiennent dans l’adversité, partagent la pression ensemble, s’appuient sur leur public et créer une synergie culturelle porteuse de succès.

La définition francophone du noyau de joueurs fait des Canadiens une équipe portée par des partisans qui voient en elle un prolongement de leur identité. Paradoxalement, le choix stratégique de la direction de se priver de joueurs francophones en fait une équipe comme une autre. Pis encore, le fait d’avoir un noyau anglophone rend très difficiles l’intégration de joueurs francophones dans l’équipe et leur gestion, accentuant ainsi le malaise identitaire.

C’est donc un cercle vicieux aux multiples retombées. Pour attirer des joueurs francophones de talent à Montréal, il faut qu’il y ait déjà un bon noyau de joueurs francophones, sinon le joueur francophone qui s’y amènera subira une pression énorme, étant souvent vu comme le sauveur de l’équipe par les partisans. Rappelons-nous Vincent Lecavalier et Daniel Brière qui ont plus qu’hésité, ils se sont entendus avec d’autres équipes lorsqu’ils étaient agents libres. Pour que ces joueurs veuillent venir jouer à Montréal, il faut que l’équipe soit assez bonne et qu’il y ait assez de joueurs francophones pour absorber avec eux la pression qu’ils porteront sur leurs épaules.

Comment appliquer une stratégie gagnante distinctive?

L’auteur démontre que depuis l’effritement d’une stratégie reposant sur un noyau francophone, la haute direction n’a pu définir une alternative pour redevenir propriétaire de la Coupe Stanley le temps d’un ou plusieurs étés. L’improvisation (« une fois en série, tout est possible » ), le rapiéçage (« avec Carey Price en santé, tout est possible ») et le gambling (signer John Tavares cet été), ne sont pas valables.

Voici les tactiques énoncées pour revenir à cet état de grâce :

1. Une ligne claire dans le repêchage

Le repêchage est la voie royale pour construire le noyau d’une équipe. Il faut, pour ce faire, choisir les bons joueurs et, de préférence, avoir les choix au repêchage les plus élevés possibles en première ronde. Or, les Canadiens n’ont en effet eu, depuis 30 ans, qu’un choix parmi les trois premiers. De plus près de 60% de ses choix de première ronde ont été après le 15e rang.

Après la première ronde, lorsque les dividendes des choix deviennent « aléatoires », on se concentre alors principalement sur les joueurs francophones. Le principe est assez simple : si vous ne repêchez pas de joueurs francophones (Québécois francophones, issus de l’immigration ou biculturels, Canadiens français ou biculturels), notamment dans les premières rondes, vous n’en aurez pas dans l’équipe. Sans francophone dans l’équipe, vous n’attirerez pas un joueur autonome francophone de qualité parce qu’il ne voudra pas être l’objet de toutes les pressions en étant le seul joueur local d’impact dans l’équipe.

Serge Savard au repêchage de 1993 avec son choix de première ronde, Saku Koivu

Serge Savard était le maître de cette tactique. Il a repêché 47 joueurs francophones sur une période de 12 ans. C’est grâce à ces choix de deuxième et troisième rondes que Savard a pu constituer une base francophone qu’il enrichira par la suite de diverses façons.

2. Obtenir des joueurs francophones d’impact par les échanges

La transaction Mickael Sergachev en retour de Jonathan Drouin en est un exemple parfait, un cas classique.

3. Recruter beaucoup de joueurs qui n’ont pas été repêchés

Plus souvent qu’autrement, des joueurs périphériques par rapport au noyau principal permettraient d’acquérir plus facilement par la suite des joueurs autonomes francophones d’impacts et de mieux intégrer de futurs francophones repêchés par l’équipe.

4. Investir davantage dans le développement de joueurs de hockey au Québec

Notamment auprès des communautés culturelles où il y a une relève potentielle peu exploitée. L’identité québécoise passe aussi par l’intégration des immigrants à notre sport national.

À cet égard, les Canadiens, avec l’attraction de leur club-école à Laval, ont l’opportunité d’en faire une plateforme, un tremplin de développement de talents francophones. La combinaison des embauches de Joël Bouchard et l’évolution de 16 francophones à un moment cette saison chez le Rocket envoie un certain indice d’espoir.

Més que un club

Le FC Barcelone n’a pas que sa réussite sportive qui en fait un cas unique. Le Barça est aussi un des porte-étendards de la Catalogne comme en témoigne sa devise : « més que un club » (« plus qu’un club »). Il s’est donné pour ambition de toujours viser le sommet et de ne jamais quitter la courte liste des cinq ou dix meilleures équipes au monde. Le Barça est «condamné» à gagner et préserver son identité catalane sans se priver des bienfaits de l’internationalisation.

Les ventes du livre auraient été très moyennes. Le milieu du hockey québécois professionnel a passé sous silence l’ouvrage. On soupçonne que les journalistes sportifs n’en parleraient pas pour ne pas se mettre à dos la direction du Canadien.

Il s’agit pourtant d’une référence essentielle. Le regard méthodique et universitaire sur les tactiques d’une organisation de sport professionnel est à la fois captivant et rare. On retient que l’auteur ne porte jamais de jugements mais attire notre attention sur des faits, des scénarios récurrents, un amalgame de preuves objectives pour monter son argumentaire. 

En ce printemps 2018, 25 ans depuis la dernière Coupe Stanley, le professeur Dupuis propose quelque chose de simple mais novateur, le choix stratégique de l’authenticité pour les Canadiens de Montréal. L’auteur valorise la possibilité, comme le Barça, de revenir aux sources, de s'affirmer comme étant « plus qu’un club », avec tous les dividendes que cela comporte.

À l’aube d’un repêchage pivot pour l'organisation, qui détient le 3e rang au total ainsi que 6 choix parmi les 45 premières sélections, l’opportunité est exceptionnelle. Deux joueurs de centre québécois, Joe Veleno et Benoît-Olivier Groulx, seront disponibles à l’encan du 22 juin à Dallas.

Par Jean-Philippe Gagnon

mercredi 13 septembre 2017

Time is a Flat Circle

Fitter Happier

“Every day I was working on it and thinking, ‘Why isn’t it happening faster?’ ” Chesky says. “When you’re starting a company, it never goes at the pace you want.  … You start, you build it, and you think everyone’s going to care. But no one cares, not even your friends.”

Le placard

J’étais chez nous et j’écoutais un “Ted Talk” d’une lesbienne qui disait qu’elle était restée dans le placard pendant vraiment longtemps et qui expliquait ce que ça lui avait fait. Elle voulait dire aux gens, même aux hétéros, qu’il y avait toute une partie de nous dans le placard. Ça m’est resté dans la tête, et je me demandais c’était quoi, moi, qui était dans le placard.

Perseverance and patience

In 2001, Federer beat Pete Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon. Federer was only 19 at the time, still unformed. But he'd just reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, and fans were starting to learn his name. And here, in England, he faced the great one, the seven-time defending Wimbledon champion—the player he'd be most compared to later, the man who held nearly all the records that Federer would someday claim. “Look, I was able to experience the highest level of tennis,” he said. “It was my first time on Centre Court at Wimbledon. My first and only time I played Pete. I was in a match where I won 7–5 in the fifth—very similar to what we just went through with Rafa. I was 19 years old. I realized, Oh, my God. There's so much more to tennis than just practice in a cold hall somewhere in Switzerland. This is what tennis could be about. I realized, I want to be back on that court one day, I'd love to compete with these guys on a regular basis, I'd rather play on the bigger courts than on the smaller courts.… And all of a sudden it started to make sense. Why you're doing weights. Why you're running. Why you arrive early at a tournament. Why you try to sleep well at night. We just started to understand the importance of every single detail. Because it makes a difference.”

FailCamp 2017

«On dit toujours qu’on a «beaucoup appris» de nos échecs. Les gens nous demandent: quoi? Ils s’attendent à de grandes leçons de vie. Ils se trompent. L’échec m’a appris la base. Il faut dormir, il faut prendre soin de soi, il faut apprendre à ne rien faire…» 

The Fuel for Growth

Sitting with those horrible feelings, and needing to understand them, and putting them into place. In the end, you find: I am those things I don't like. That is a part of me. I can't deny that. I have to accept that. And in fact, I have to embrace that. I need to face that and take care of that. Because by denying it, I deny myself. I am those mistakes. For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy. Yeah, the avoidance of pain is a real mistake. It's the real missing out on life. It's those very things that shape us, those very things that offer growth, that make the world a better place, oddly enough, ironically. That make us better.

Letter to the NFL Draft Class

I can live with having lost some money because I trusted the wrong people, or because I wasn’t educated enough on how money and business worked. I learned some lessons the hard way, and that’s O.K. But at the end of the day, I lost two years of playing the game I love when I was in my prime. I lost millions of dollars. I lost valuable time with my wife and children. I even missed the birth of my daughter, who was born while I was in prison. I basically lost everything all because of one stupid decision.

JP Gagnon

jeudi 4 mai 2017

Win or Learn by John Kavanagh

"Only those who never stand up, never fall down.” Fedor Emelianenko


Win or Learn is a deep dive into the art of war. The two protagonists are already legendary icons in the UFC, mecca of 1 on 1 combat: Conor McGregor and his mentor John Kavanagh. This book offers a unique glimpse inside Kavanagh’s perspective on life, his journey building the Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin Ireland, training a generational athlete and the humbling winning philosophy behind their success.

Key learnings

Flow sparring, a distinct coaching innovation

There have been many occasions over the years when I've sat down with fighters in my office and said: "You prepare for fights in this gym. You don't win them here. The gym is a place for improvement." 

At first, they're confused. Their philosophy is the harder you spar, the more prepared you are when the time comes to fight. In reality though, if a fighter is holding nothing back in sparring for six to eight weeks, the likelihood is that they won't even make it as far as the fight. Communicating that message to them is important to me, because it's a mistake I made many times myself.

You want to recreate a fight scenario as closely as you can, but you do it without the same level of impact. Throw your big shots but pull them before they connect. We call this flow sparring. It requires experience and intelligence on the part of both athletes involved. For sparing sessions, I like to replicate every aspect of a fight without the damage. Therefore, if fighters can master the concept of flow sparring, they don't need to wear any additional protection. They can spar using four-ounce gloves, which they’ll be wearing in a fight. I even encourage them to wear the same shorts. Every detail is important.

My fighters can still train hard but there's no need to take unnecessary damage while they do so. We saw significant results from this change in approach very quickly. In the last few years, I can't imagine that any other team can rival our track record for the lowest number of pull-outs from fights at all levels, from the UFC down to the domestic circuit. 

Kavanagh and McGregor at SBG 

Win or learn: failure is the secret ingredient to success 

“Competitive fighting doesn’t last long, learning martial arts and training is for life”

In similar fashion as GSP, a fellow UFC champion, Conor is an obsessed man. He strives for knowledge to dominate in the combat game.

Healing a knee injury, he couldn't train or fight for a long time, but Conor improved in absolutely every area during his recovery. As he inched closer to full fitness each day, his mind gradually became bulletproof. In hindsight, the break was a blessing in disguise, in that it gave Conor a chance to take a step back and clearly assess the opportunities that were in front of him, which meant that he was prepared to make the most of them when they came along. His handling of the injury was a perfect example of the 'win and learn' philosophy I've encouraged at SBG. For 99 per cent of people it would have been a negative experience, but Conor turned it into a positive one. Instead of losing during his time out, he learned. 

Even though he couldn't spar, I used to send questions to him by text message about how he'd respond if he were to be caught in a certain position during his fight. That kept his mind sharp and in the game. Conor studied the anatomy of the knee intensely. He became obsessed with knowing every detail of how the knee works in order to have a clearer understanding of his rehab.

Heather Milligan, an elite physical therapist, taught him a lot about the movement of the human body, and that had a significant influence on Conor's approach to training and how to get the best out of himself physically. It also encouraged him to embrace the concept of light sparring even more. Heather told Conor that his muscles were to tight, so he became fixated with making sure that he was always loose and supple. He learned the importance of massage, and came to understand that lifting heavy weights really isn't necessary for building strength. It was all about focusing on soft training.

When he wasn't in the gym or receiving treatment, Conor devoted plenty of time to learning about how the UFC is run as a business and the role of a fighter in the media. He recognized the importance of promoting himself effectively, particularly given that the injury could very easily have pushed him away from the spotlight. 

It is rarely noted how efficiently McGregor has designed, crafted his mystic brand. He has crystallised his identity around confidence, a lethal weapon, and is flawless in its showcasing. Whether it be in interviews, fight promotions, social media and knock-outs in the octagon he is always authentic. Conor’s brand is also intimately linked to Ireland, the fighting Irish, the purest possible sponsor. At his first UFC fight, what would become the epitome of his character, McGregor made the walk towards the octagon smiling, with just his own shorts, the Irish tricolour and Sinéad O’Connor’s The foggy Dew. He is always greeted by a massive roar, the arena filled with Irish fans sporting green and the Irish flag. 

Sinéad O'Connor and McGregor at UFC 189

Movement is life

Staying fresh and loose before a fight is crucial. Conor's work with Ido Portal, movement master, is just something fun for him to do at the end of a long training camp. Unlike some camps, we don't spar during that period. Late sparring is one of the reasons why there are so many injury pull-outs in other camps. For us, the intensity of the eyes watching us increases during the final two weeks, but the training levels decrease. People didn't see the eight-to-ten weeks beforehand when we had done some big sessions. 

Frankie McConville, an excellent Muay Thai coach in Belfast, once said to me: 'Nothing is as boring as training for a fight because you know exactly how many miles you have to run and how many rounds of sparring to do. It's mind-numbing.' Every once in a while, you introduce something new and enjoyable to freshen things up. That's been Ido's role for those last couple of fights and I believe it has been a success.

Respect the rituals

Not having to cut weight for the fight against Diaz was supposedly helpful, but in hindsight it was undoubtedly a hindrance. Cutting weight may not be much fun, but it does serve as a reminder that you're preparing for a fight. It focuses the mind and has been an enormous part of what we've been doing. Without that ritual, things were just weird. If a person is starving, they're in survival mode. It focuses the mind and taps into the reptilian part of the brain. When Conor is cutting weight, he views his opponents as an obstacle in the way of his next meal. It's a primal thing.

There was substantial consolation in the knowledge that Conor would emerge stronger and wiser. One of the great things about this sport is that even after you've reached the top, you don't stop learning. In fact, the lessons just become more valuable than they've ever been before.

Nate Diaz submits Conor via rear-naked choke at UFC 196

The journey is everything – Good things take time

This has been a rollercoaster ride. There were as many low points as there were highlights along the way. At times, it might have made more sense to get off and try something else, but I'm certainly glad I never did.

Perhaps it's fitting that this tale of success against the odds has ended with a setback. At Straight Blast Gym, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but every time we learn. That attitude was with us when we were a tiny outfit that nobody in the UFC had ever heard of. We persevered and have travelled all the way to the top. Now that we've arrived, we're staying loyal to the same mantra that got us here. It's now more important than ever, because one loss isn't going to send us back to the drawing board. There are challenges ahead that will test our capacity to absorb the lessons that. Are dealt by sport at the highest level. I know that some of those challenges will result in victory and others will end in defeat. But I'm enthusiastic about them all. Regardless of the outcome of any contest, the real winners are those who learn the most.

I always take a moment to remember the highs and lows of the journey, but mostly the lows, because without them my appetite would never have grown big enough to strive for the highs. I looked back at the tough nights of working on the doors in clubs, the struggles to find places to train, the disagreements with my parents... And I smiled, knowing that it was all worth it. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but every time I learned. 

Five years earlier I'd been sitting beside Conor on his bed in his parents' house as he was in tears due to his life's apparent lack of direction. Yet here he was now, the talk of the UFC, with the president of the organization falling at his feet. It was hard to take it all in, so I had to escape and find a quiet room where I could have a few minutes to myself. I lay down on the floor and let the wave of emotion sweep over me. I just needed a chance to allow it all to sink in. Taking that little bit of time to myself has become a ritual that I follow after every big fight. 

Enjoy the run

Kavanagh shows shades of Hall of Fame Quebec boxing coach Stéphane Larouche: Before we went out, I told him to soak the whole occasion in. That's important for fighters. Sometimes we forget that. I want all my fighters to be able to look back on there moments some day with their grandkids and have great stories to tell.

The Champ Champ

"The coincidence was that so many fighters with such an incredible work ethic and appetite for learning all came along at once. The overriding theme when I look back will be that I spent my life doing something I love. I'll be a student of the game until the day I die."

What distinguishes luck from pure success? Win or Learn is a coaching manifesto, a tale of systematically creating one’s chance. On November 12th 2017, Conor McGregor became the first simultaneous double division (Featherweight and Lightweight) champion in UFC history. Repetitive success is no fluke. Kavanagh has a stable of champs at Conor’s side to prove his legitimacy. As McGregor enters the boxing world, poaching a possible fight against Floyd Mayweather, Kavanagh has a new perfect contest to apply his learned winning formula.

By Jean-Philippe Gagnon

jeudi 5 janvier 2017

21st Century Talent Spotting

“Why Potential Now Trumps Brains, Experience, And Competencies” 
A Harvard Business Review article by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz


Talent is the most important asset in the world today. Not capital, not technology. TALENT.

Talent is an art, a vocation, a full time priority as it needs to be identified, attracted, developed and retained. A competitive organisation acts on each front every day! Why? Because the best clients follow the best talent. Because talent isn’t only the most important resource, it’s also the scarcest one!

Lucky for us Claudio Fernandez-Araoz brilliantly lays out the blueprint for talent spotting in his 2014 HBR article. Three years has done nothing more than accentuate the critical need to learn everything about talent.

Companies may not be feeling pain today, but in five or 10 years, as people retire or move on, where will the next generation of leaders come from? Your organization will be looking for potential in what will soon be one of the toughest employment markets in history, for employers not job seekers.

Key learnings

Go for potential

Consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior management to the C-suite and the board. As business becomes more volatile and complex, and the global market for top professionals gets tighter, organizations and their leaders must transition to a new era of talent spotting, one in which our evaluation of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential.

The question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones. Can you adjust to the massive changes? Do you have the ability to adapt and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments?
Montreal Canadiens, GM Marc Bergevin withVP of player personnel, director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins. 
What better laboratory for talent spotting than profesionnal sports?

Ask the right questions 

Instead of asking "are you curious?" Look for signs that the person believes in self-improvement, truly enjoys learning, and is able to recalibrate after missteps. Always ask for concrete examples. Look for details in the due-diligence, indicators such as:

-Fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals; 
-A penchant for seeking out new experiences and knowledge;
-A knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people; 
-The willingness to fight for difficult goals despite challenges and to bounce back from adversity; 
-Thriving to always go out of your way to meet customers, clients, and workers at all levels, and to listen to voices that usually go unheard.

Everything is scouting

Companies that emphasize the right kind of hiring vastly improve their odds. Amazon as hundreds of dedicated internal recruiters, great training programs in assessment and even a legion of certified "bar raisers": skilled evaluators who hold full-time jobs in a range of departments but are also empowered to participate in assessing and vetoing candidates for other areas. 

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of our success.” Jeff Bezos

Look within your ranks

Be proudest of the improved quality of the leaders rising through the company's ranks. The capacity to build and retain great teams is the key to any leader's or organization's success.
Most of us are energized by three fundamental things: autonomy, the freedom to direct our lives; mastery, our craving to excel; and purpose, the yearning for our work to serve something larger than ourselves. 

Departures are caused by bad bosses, limited support, and lack of opportunities for growth. 
Pay your stars fairly, ideally above the average but also give them autonomy in four "T" dimensions: task, what they do; time, when they do it; team, whom they do it with; and technique, how they do it. Help them toward mastery by setting difficult but attainable challenges and eliminating distractions. And engage them in a greater team, organizational, or societal goal.
Go for the long run

Your final job is to make sure your stars live up to the high potential you've spotted in them by offering development opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones. Constantly striving to find the optimal level of discomfort in the next role or project, because that's where the most learning happens. Well-rounded, values-focused leaders who see the world through a wide-angle lens, and the right stretch assignments are what helps people get there.

Those that learn how to spot potential, effectively retain people who have it, and create development programs to help the best get better, the situation will instead offer an extraordinary opportunity.

Talent is not an abstract idea. Talent is your team. You can’t reach your potential without a team. If life lessons are also pertinent for business than we all know finding THAT partner is a hell of a challenge! Spot talent, build a team and you have the foundations of an empire!

By Jean-Philippe Gagnon

mardi 13 décembre 2016

Death by VR

Kevin Plank, Under Armour and Baltimore's transformation

Meanwhile, Plank will continue his agitations, small and large, to support the entwined futures of Under Armour and the city of Baltimore. “It is really hard work, it’s really dangerous investing, it’s really costly, and it’s a really big deal—but I think it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “What I really want to do in life is to build the baddest brand on the planet. I would love to do that at the same time as anchoring it in a city that could really use a hug. It seems like such a waste for us not to take advantage of the momentum that Under Armour has right now.”

Show me you have balls!

Julien Brault on the unbeaten path

Something extraordinary happened when I began to say exactly what I was thinking, what I wanted and where I was going. In other words, when I shared the fucking truth.

Denis Villeneuve sur la suite de Blade Runner

«Ryan et moi sommes des immenses fans de Blade Runner. On s'est dit dès le départ que le projet est magnifique mais que nos chances de succès sont extrêmement limitées. Donc, on a beaucoup de plaisir à jouer dans une zone de risque aussi épouvantable. Et moi, j'ai vraiment du fun avec lui. Je n'ai jamais eu autant de fun avec un acteur. C'est effrayant!»

The ladder according to Patrick Pichette

When work starts feeling too comfortable, fire yourself; go get another job. For the vast majority of people, it is important to get out of the comfort zone. When you work for the same company for 37 years, it is very rare that it will keep you on your toes and give you the challenges you need to keep growing. I’ve had five careers – which sounds very millennial, but I think the millennials are right.

Never forget Easy Rider

Easy Rider represented a time when freedom meant freedom from material things, freedom from driving in six lanes of traffic to work twelve hours a day at a job you hate. Freedom in 1969 was the land, the land of the free and the brave. Freedom was peace and love. The word freedom has been co-opted. Today, freedom means freedom to be selfish, freedom to carry guns. Freedom to hurt the land and its inhabitants for the sake of commerce. Easy Rider reminds us how far we have strayed from that journey.

All in

Bryan Cranston:  Oh, it’s cyclical. I’m riding a wave right now, and I recognize that. I wanna do as much work as I can, do the best I can.  And when it’s all said and done and they say, “Get outta the water, you’re done,” I wanna be so exhausted that I look forward to it. It’s, like, “Oh, you’re right.” I don’t wanna have anything left in the tank.

Stay in the real world

As developers, artists and storytellers, if we are collectively successful in our individual endeavors then we will all contribute to the death of VR.

JP Gagnon

lundi 24 octobre 2016

The Purple Cow by Seth Godin

The real growth comes with products that annoy, offend, don't appeal, are too expensive, too cheap, too heavy, too complicated, too simple, too something. You have to go where the competition is not. The further the better. If there's a limit, you should (must) test it.

The Purple Cow is another pearl by business sensei Seth Godin (you remember The Dip right?). This book is all about being remarkable.

Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. It's a Purple Cow. Boring stuff is invisible. It's a brown cow. Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into a product or service. Stop advertising and start innovating.

Key learnings

Marketing is dead. Long live marketing 
The old rule, create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing, doesn’t work so well any more. TV and mass media are no longer your secret weapons. The post consumption consumer is out of things to buy.

The new rule is: create remarkable products that the right people seek out. They are outliers. They're on the fringes. Super-fast or super-slow. Very exclusive or very cheap. Very big or very small. Target a niche instead of a huge market. Find the market niche first, and then make the remarkable product, not the other way around. The more intransigent your market, the more crowded the marketplace, the busier your customers, the more you need the Purple Cow. 

The reason it's so hard to follow the leader is this: the leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken, it's no longer remarkable when you do it.
Safe is risky
We face two choices: to be invisible, anonymous, uncriticised, and safe, or to take a chance at greatness, uniqueness, and the Cow. 

It's an interesting paradox. As the world gets more turbulent, more and more people seek safety. They want to eliminate as much risk as they can from their businesses and their careers. And most of the people mistakenly believe that the way to do that is to play it safe. To hide. So fewer and fewer people work to create a new Purple Cow. My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it's safer to be risky, to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. 

When Herman Miller introduced the $750 Aeron chair in 1994, they took a radical risk. They launched a chair that looked different, worked differently, and cost a bunch. It was a Purple Cow. They realized that making a safe chair was the single riskiest thing they could do.

Boring always leads to failure (except, of course, when being boring is, in and of itself, remarkable). Boring is always the most risky strategy. 

Ideas that spread, win.

You must design a product that is remarkable enough to attract the early adopters, but is flexible enough and attractive enough that those adopters will have an easy time spreading the idea to the rest of the curve. 

A brand is nothing more than an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don't. I call ideas that spread, ideaviruses. Sneezers are the key spreading agents of an ideavirus. These are the experts who tell all their colleagues or friends or admirers about a new product or service on which they are a perceived authority. Sneezers are the ones who launch and maintain ideaviruses. Innovators or early adopters may be first to buy your product, but if they're not sneezers as well, they won't spread your idea. The early adopters heavily influence the rest of the curve, so persuading them is worth far more than wasting ad dollars trying to persuade anyone else.

A slogan that accurately conveys the essence of your Purple Cow is a script. A script for the sneezer to use when she talks with her friends. There's nothing to complicate the message.

The Cow and our schools
We run our schools like factories. We line kids up in straight rows, put them in batches (called grades), and work very hard to make sure there are no defective parts. Nobody standing out, falling behind, running ahead, making a ruckus. These are the rules that ultimately lead to failure. In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible. 

In Search of Otaku
The Japanese have invented some truly useful words. One of them is otaku. Otaku describes something that's more than a hobby but a little less than an obsession. 

Consumers with otaku are the sneezers you seek. They're the ones who will take the time to learn about your product, take the risk to try your product, and take their friends' time to tell them about it. The flash of insight is that some markets have more otaku-stricken consumers than others. The task of the remarkable marketer is to identify these markets and focus on them to the exclusion of lesser markets, regardless of relative size.

Smart businesses target markets where there's already otaku.

Your career as a Purple Cow
Remarkable people with remarkable careers seem to switch jobs with far less effort. Remarkable people often don't even have a resume. Instead, they rely on sneezers who are quick to recommend them when openings come up. A standard resume is nothing but an opportunity for a prospective employer to turn you down. A sheaf of over-the-top references, on the other hand, begs for a meeting. Remarkable people are often recruited from jobs they love to jobs they love even more. 

The secret doesn't lie in the job-seeking technique. It has to do with what these people do when they're not looking for a job. These Purple Cows do an outrageous job. They work on high-profile projects. These people take risks, often resulting in big failures. These failures rarely lead to a dead end, though. They're not really risks, after all. Instead, they just increase the chances that these people will get an even better project next time.

If you're thinking about being a Purple Cow, the time to do is when you're not looking for a job. 

The book is truly a testament of design thinking, breaking isolation between the different spheres of business. The vast majority of product success stories are engineered from the first day to be successful. It's about designing the thing to be virus-worthy in the first place. Marketing is the act of inventing the product. The effort of designing it. The craft of producing it. The art of pricing it. The technique of selling it.

Marketers no longer: now we're designers.

Jean-Philippe Gagnon