The Toronto Raptors have done what no other team has ever done: they've brought the NBA Finals to the North. Uniting all of Canada under the banner of "We the North," the franchise has also had its second-best season and earned the second-best record in the league, winning more than 70 percent of its games.
The Raptors and their fan, embody the characteristics that Canadians are proudest of. Here's how to bring five pillars of the Raptors' winning culture into your organization. (Disclosure: I am both Canadian and a Raptors fan. The opinions below are mine alone.)
1. Show bold leadership.
Raptors President Masai Ujiri shocked the world last summer. It was the team's best season ever, and not only did he fire Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, but he traded their best player. For this he was vilified and trolled. Yet these bold moves took the Raptors from good to great. You can do the same at your venture by asking, "What is the most contrarian thing we could do to elevate our game?"
2. Exude calm confidence.
The Raptors are led by Kawhi Leonard, a perennial all-star forward who is stoic and soft-spoken. Like Leonard, Canadians are not often perceived as loud and aggressive. We prefer to let our actions speak for us. To bring this philosophy to your startup, consider an alternative to stunts and staged antics to garner media attention: lead your promotions with factual results and let that success speak for you.
3. "By all, for all."
The Raptors, as a team and as a fanbase, are extremely inclusive. That shouldn't be a surprise, since Toronto is widely recognized for its diversity. Reports state that approximately half the people living in Toronto were not born there, and that diversity is a strength.
Research has confirmed that inclusion and diversity is a material advantage in ventures that need to be innovative. Diversity can impact performance, especially in cases where uncertainty and agility are high and innovation is the primary goal.
4. Help everyone win.
Raptors fans don't, in general, subscribe to a zero-sum theory. Yes, each game has a winner and a loser, but the fans see the Finals as the journey, not the destination.
Toronto--and Canada as a whole--is already winning, thanks to the worldwide attention and millions of dollars the playoffs have brought. You can leverage this philosophy at your business by alternatively considering collaboration instead of competition.
For example, let's say you are going to a big trade show. Your three competitors also want to attend this conference to access potential early adopters in the crowd. Most people's first instinct is to compete by trying to outdo the competition with a better trade booth. But that might lead to a "trade booth war," with each company trying to beat the others. Instead, ask yourself: If you went to this trade show acting collaborative instead of competitive, what might that look like? Perhaps all four ventures pool their resources to collectively create a better, more impactful go-to-market, and perhaps that gets more early adopters for all four ventures. Isn't that better than spending more to compete and getting less?
That sort of thinking is the Canadian way: What can we do together that is stronger than the sum of the individuals?
5. Be considerate.
On Friday, before game one, I listened to a CBC radio interview featuring both Raptors and Warriors fans. Surrounded by literally thousands of screaming Raptors fans inside Jurassic Park (an outdoor public viewing area that allows fans to enjoy the game from just outside the stadium), I listened as Warriors fans were booed as they walked by. But only in Canada is a loud and vocal jeer followed by a quick and humble, "I'm sorry, enjoy the game."
Canadians are widely described as apologetic. Now, I'm not sorry that the Raptors won Game 1. Nor will I apologize for the most diverse, passionate fans anywhere. Because that's just Canadian, like the Toronto Raptors.
But in my experience, it never pays to be a jerk at work. After all, it is a small world, and everything that goes around comes around--meaning that you should treat everyone (including your competitors) with respect by default. Doing so may not make you a better competitor, but it will make you a better human being and a little more Canadian. And is that really a bad thing, eh?