January 29, 2015

Comparing Harry Sinden and Glen Sather To Google

I have been reading the fascinating bestseller How Google Works by former Google bigwigs Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg.

The cover is annoying, but never judge a book by it's cover. It is an interesting look into how the iconic, revolutionary company has become arguably the most dominant and most important company of it's time. Perhaps ever.

How'd they do it? By using visionary - and often contrarian - principles of business that allowed greatness to emerge. They hired the best engineers and computer scientists in the world, and then, against pretty much every business model out there, allowed them to do their thing.  Just make great services, and the seemingly non-existent business plan will work itself out.

The result is nothing short of world changing. And if Google has it's way, this is all just the beginning. I highly recommend this read.

Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

What does all this have to do with a hockey history website?

From the very first few pages I found myself immediately drawn to a hockey comparable. Specifically Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, who in this scenario would be the engineers, and coaches Harry Sinden and Glen Sather, who would fit the role of Google bosses Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Orr and Gretzky are, of course, the greatest hockey players of all time. But they achieved the ultimate heights by not being forced to follow the traditional model. Their bosses, Sinden and Sather respectively, allowed them to just do their thing, and surrounded them with an environment for success.

When you think about it we hockey fans sure owe Sinden and Sather a great debt of gratitude. Almost every other coach would have forced Orr and Gretzky to fit the typical hockey mold. Orr would never have been allowed to roam like he did. Gretzky was allowed to be an all-offensive player, something almost no player has been afforded the chance since. But Sinden and Sather both realized they had something amazing and just allowed them to do their thing. Greatness ensued.

It makes me wonder how many other great players never reached the heights they could have? How many players, unable to conform, were chased from the league when they could have been stars? Will we ever see coach allow a player such freedoms again?  Why are the rare players who do get occasional chances of freedom, such as Alexander Oveckin, often criticized by those who are less visionary and can only see the traditional model? What kind of numbers could have Sidney Crosby have posted in this era if he was was given the same chances as Gretzky? Will all players, even celebrated "Next Ones" like Connor McDavid, be shackled by a hockey world with conventional thinking?

These are questions that even Google can't answer.

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