As Millennials move into the workplace, there are a lot a lessons that can be applied from the Thunder’s rise on the courts.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Oklahoma City Thunder are hot, hot, hot right now!
The Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs four games to two to win a seven-game series in the 2012 NBA Western Conference Final. The Thunder won despite the fact that they’re the seventh youngest team in the league with an .
According to , there are about 80 million millennials and by the year 2025, three out of every four workers globally will be Gen Y.
As this generational shift takes place in the workplace, there’s a lot a lessons that can be applied from the rise of the Thunder on the courts.
1. Mentorship: help us grow
You get old when you stop learning. Age isn’t a function of time—it’s a function of one’s willingness to learn. Millennials, it seems, have an undying love for learning.
According to Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation is on track to become , with 19% done with college, 39% still in college, and 30% planning to earn postsecondary degrees. This desire for learning doesn’t end at college graduation. Millennials want professional growth opportunities on the job.
Scott Brooks, the Thunder’s head coach who turned the team around from a 22-47 record to a 47-19 record in the last four years, says, “You learn from playing against the best players and the best teams, and we’re going to keep fighting and figuring out ways to beat them.” And this year, they did that by beating the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurs to make it to the NBA Finals. Thunder players’ appetite for greatness is also satisfied by learning from more experienced athletes. For example, Kevin Durant has been mentored by Lebron James since entering the league.
This is exactly what we, Millennials, want in the office. Challenges to help us grow and mentors who will help us get there.
2. Teamwork: know your role
The Thunder didn’t buy stars like many teams do—instead they created the conditions of success for stars to rise. OKC is a team of role players. Everyone knows what they are supposed to do, who is best at what, and when to rely on a certain player. Kevin Durant, 23, has already won three NBA scoring titles. Russell Westbrook, 23, has had NBA All-Star appearances in the last two seasons. This year, James Harden, 22, won the 6th Man of the Year award and Serge Ibaka, 22, led the league in blocks.
Work should be a place where people are also clear on their roles and specialties. When Millennials join a new team, we don’t want boring titles that fit neatly on an org chart. It’s not just the title — we want unique responsibilities too. We want a role that speaks to our value within the company, and we want our job title to reflects that.
3. Passion: the secret sauce
For OKC, the bells and the whistles don’t matter. What matters is playing basketball. A recent that OKC is the 2nd most cost-efficient team at $1.02 million per regular season win. When it comes to money ball, those are real results.
Similarly, big brands aren’t what give young professionals meaning. According to research by , only 7% of Millennials work for Fortune 500 companies. We want managers and leaders who can keep the eye on the big picture and draw the passion out of their employees. We want to know that our work creates value for others.
What other lessons can we learn from the Thunder’s success?
Jullien Gordon is a Founding Partner at New Higher, a high performance consultancy that works with top Gen Y employers to hire, retain, and train young professionals. Visit to join New Higher’s free Sunday night professional development webinars.