By now even casual sports fans know that the Golden State Warriors just eclipsed Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls for the best regular season in NBA history. Many even realize the team is owned by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Joe Lacob, and that it relied heavily on technology and advanced analytics to construct its roster and set its strategy and tactics.
Even with all that, winning 73 games in an 82-game season was far from a foregone conclusion. Many observers—and team officials—worried that the ongoing effort required to set the record would fatigue the players and increase the risk of injury. That could jeopardize the ultimate goal, winning the franchise’s second-consecutive championship.
So, how did the team decide to go for it and manage its internal expectations and the varying needs of each player?
Simple: group chat.
According to sportswriter Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, the group chat is the 15 players’ “millennial nexus, private comedy club, and how this team prepares to take on the world.”
It kind of sounds like every Silicon Valley start-up and hardworking tech team you’ve ever heard of, doesn’t it?
Instead of wasting time in awkward meetings trying to hash out what the team was willing and able to do to reach its stretch goals, without overtly pressuring players who might actually want and need the rest, the Warriors used their private chat room to make critical group decisions.
“There were no words actually spoken in the locker room or anywhere?” Kawakami asked the team’s backup center Festus Ezil. His response: “Yeah…”
That’s exactly how chat app developers from Slack to Facebook hope people will use their products, and the Ws, as the Warriors are sometimes called, are the perfect, high-profile embodiment of how it’s all supposed to work.
Apparently, the group chat has been in existence for a couple years, but Kawakami was unable to find anyone who recalled the exact details of its creation. It really took off during the controversy surrounding the team’s previous coach, Mark Jackson.
Now, “everything is in the chat room,” said Draymond Green, the team’s emotional leader. Critically, it’s even used during the offseason, and it is as much a bonding medium as a practical tool. The players use it to handle logistics, such as where to go for dinner while on the road, but also to rib one another mercilessly.
The key for the Warriors is trust, Kawakami wrote: The chat room is “a place every player can go to listen to each other’s thoughts, share opinions, bounce off of each other and know that nobody is going to violate the trust.”
Sounds like a good prescription for the success of any team—or workgroup or company—relying on this technology. Group chat may not turn your team into a record-setting world champion, but using technology to improve communication is clearly an important enabler for success in many endeavors.