Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

When Design Impacts Performance

Leslie’s Articles

Performance Returns the Favor

You could call it the Feng Shui of the NBA. A 50,000 square foot building where glass, wood, technology, and a holistic approach to professional basketball all live under one roof.

Or you could call it the Cleveland Clinic Courts, the practice facility for LeBron and team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In October of 2007 they moved into their new home where work-flow, connectivity and communication drove every decision in the design and construction of this building. Is there a connection between a building and success? Between improved facilities and an improved record?

If there is a connection in pro sports between interior excellence and an excellent record, is there a connection in your professional life? Let’s take a virtual look inside the NBA.

If you are a doubter like me, you look at the two full size side-by-side courts, six nets, a 3,000 square foot weight and conditioning area, a 150-inch HD projection screen, stadium seating, and wonder. How does all of this encourage players, coaches and staff to a higher level of excellence?

A no-excuse policy drives the team and the building. There is no excuse for less than excellence in any aspect of the organization. The essence of their rules and strategies can be applied in your business.

1. The No-Buddy Rule
Members of the Cavaliers are strongly urged to drive themselves to and from practice, hence the no-buddy rule. Players are “discouraged” from attending practice with a friend, posse or entourage member. Their focus is to be on practice not on who may be waiting for them after practice.

Lesson Learned: Millionaire athletes respond to winning strategies. Is the no-buddy rule a rule or a strategy? A rule is imposed, a strategy has buy-in. Players appear understand and comply with this “strategy”. You could say they buy into it. Imagine legislating driving patterns of “employees”. Do you establish rules or strategies? Do you create buy-in? Are you hesitant to impose what may appear to be strict or archaic ways?

2. Chairs with a Purpose
Players start each practice in the large theater-style team meeting room. Theatre seating consists of chairs designed by Cavalier’s management and that 150-inch screen. The agenda is to begin each practice by watching their own game ‘tape” or opponent’s games. Athletes watch on chairs specifically designed to not recline. And too narrow in which to lounge. This is a business meeting and full attention is expected.

Lesson Learned: Everything about this 50, 000 square foot facility is designed to maximize workflow, connectivity, and communication. Even a building of wood and glass can speak to the synergy of team. Even a building can be designed to move your business and your agenda forward. Have you looked at every aspect from your chairs to your coffee maker to your clothes?

3. A Football Shaped Locker Room
Most locker rooms are built in the shape of a rectangle or a square. This locker room is designed in the shape of a football. The difference? There are no ends. No ends that drop off and allow a player to drop off and not communicate with other players. One TV graces a wall in the locker room. No individual screens, no individual IPod or mp3 stations. This is a space built for interaction not isolation.

Lesson Learned: The locker room, like the entire facility, is a standing monument to basketball, business, and synergy all coming together. The facility boasts connectivity and communication. I asked Campy Russell, former NBA player, what made a good NBA coach a good coach? He answered with clarity, the ability to communicate. Is communication a high priority for you?

4. No Bloomin’ Onion Here
Players eat many meals at their practice facility. How much control do the Cavalier’s have over what the players eat? David Painter, Facility Manager, says in this building, 100%. Some players have favorite meals, like Anderson and his egg white omelets. It is clear that the Cavaliers are not eating bloomin’ onions when they eat in their “house.

Lesson Learned: The Cavalier management considers every detail important. Most players have their own personal chef. In their case, their body is truly their business. Staying in good enough shape for one more play-off game or one more season can reap huge financial dividends. For all of us, aren’t our bodies our business? What do you serve at your meetings and retreats? Food to facilitate learning or food to sabotage learning?

5. Underwater I-Spy
A huge underwater treadmill is a highlight of the rehab wing. Underwater cameras record a player’s workout from every angle. The DVD is then sent to the player’s doctor to be reviewed: how is the knee, is the ankle holding weight?

Lesson Learned: This union of rehab and technology is one of the few in the NBA. The Cavalier management has looked at every detail and tested rules, strategies, brick and mortar to bend to their philosophy. Do you?

“When design impacts performance, performance returns the favor.” This phrase was developed for the introduction of the Infiniti G Sedan. How does design impact performance in your business? Is performance returning the favor? On to the play-offs.