September 27, 2010

Staff Picks: Pete Carroll and the Grateful Dead

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 8:51 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

After leading a train of counter culture, tie-dyed long-hairs around the country for over three decades, the Grateful Dead is now being used to teach valuable lessons in some unlikely places. David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan released a great book last month with John Wiley and Sons about how the band built its devoted following and the many lessons they offer marketers today. Basketball legend, Dead Head and current NBA announcer Bill Walton wrote in the book's introduction that "Brian and David's newest book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, is like a powerful, hard-charging anthem that fills in so many of the blanks while closing the circle of life all around us." And while I have no idea what that means, the book is truly excellent at distilling exactly what the Grateful Dead did as a band and a business to create such an iconic brand, and how incorporating some of their practices is a great way to gain a following for your own company. Now, reading through NFL coach Pete Carroll's new book, Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion, I see the following passage:
Growing up outside San Francisco, I was a casual fan of the Grateful Dead. I remember hearing an interview with the late, great guitar player and leader of the band, Jerry Garcia. I can't remember exactly what question the interviewer asked him, but it was something along the lines of "How do you feel about being possibly the greatest rock-and-roll band of all time?" A classic softball question, but rather than responding with the usual fluff, Jerry said something I'll never forget. "No, man," he answered, ever so relaxed. "That's not how we think of ourselves at all. We don't want to be the best ones doing something—we want to be the only ones doing it."
It's a great quote, and Carroll's book is about much more than the Grateful Dead. Released in July by Portfolio, Win Forever is about Carroll's journey to success as a coach and his larger philosophy of life. And the book comes at an interesting time in his career—the beginning of a new chapter. You see, Carroll recently left behind the wild success he had for nearly a decade at USC for the chance to lead the Seattle Seahawks. This leads to some odd passages in the book where he follows up explanations of his successful approach at USC with a promise to do the same thing in Seattle, such as: "[O]ur staff treated every practice as an individual event in and of itself, and we will do the same thing with the Seahawks." The second to last paragraph of the book takes this talk further, letting us know that he intends to have his new team stand out:
As you watch our organization in Seattle take on new challenges this fall, I want you to watch for specifics. Follow our team during training camp and into our first game and, I hope, into the play-offs You will know how we operate, how we speak, how we train, and how we compete. It won't be magic and it won't change the world, but it will be unique. We will be uniquely us.
So far, so good. They're leading the NFC West with a record of 2-1. It came down to the wire yesterday. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a few shots at the end zone to tie the game as the clock ticked down, each of which barely missed. So, Carroll won (despite an odd decision not to stop the clock at the end of the first half to kick a field goal). But, as Carroll says often in his book, it's not about winning as much as simply competing, because competing "lasts longer." Or, as Carroll writes in a poem near the end of the book, "Compete to be the greatest you, and that will always be enough and that will be a lifetime!" In other words, "Keep on Truckin'."