What Can We Learn About Knowledge Retention from Three Olympic Gold Medalists?

Kevin Watson - Director of Business Development ·

The final game of the 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament marked the beginning of the rivalry between future Hall of Famers Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.

Michigan State, led by Johnson, won the national title with a 75-64 victory in the final game over a previously undefeated Indiana State team, led by Bird.

Both Johnson and Bird would enter the NBA the following fall, and the rivalry between them and their teams (respectively, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics) would burn strong for over a decade.

Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers were two dynasties that dominated the NBA during the 1980s. In fact, at least one of these teams made it to the NBA Championship series in every single year between 1980-1989, winning a combined 8 NBA Championships!

In November of 1991, Johnson announced that he had tested positive for HIV and would retire from basketball. Bird, plagued by back problems, would announce his retirement the following year.

After Johnson and Bird retired, it would take another 9 years before the Lakers or the Celtics contended for another NBA Championship.

In the absence of Johnson and Bird, dominance in the 1990s would belong to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan and the Bulls would go on to win three consecutive NBA Championships from 1991-1993.

After the 1993 season, Jordan announced his retirement (only to return one year later). Upon Jordan’s return, the Bulls would go on to win three more consecutive NBA Championships from 1996-1998, capped by yet another Michael Jordan retirement.

It has been 14 years since Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls (for the second time), and they have yet to play in another NBA Championship series.

In 1992, Johnson, Bird and Jordan joined forces to play on the United States men's Olympic basketball team, nicknamed the "Dream Team." This was the first American Olympic team to feature active NBA players, and has been described by some as the greatest sports team ever assembled. The team defeated its opponents by an average of almost 44 points en route to the gold medal. In addition to winning the gold medal, these three “Dream Team” members were so dominant that over an 18-year stretch, Johnson, Bird and Jordan won a combined total of 14 NBA titles, 11 Regular Season MVP awards and 11 NBA Finals MVP awards.

What is the moral of the story?

Don’t become the post-Johnson Lakers or the post-Bird Celtics of the 1990s, or the post-Jordan Bulls of the 2000s (zero combined NBA Championships)!

The thought of replacing the most talented people within an organization often causes paralysis to set in. As a result, most companies wait until the members of their “Dream Team” announce they are leaving before they start to think about the rebuilding process. Don’t fall into the same trap. The rebuilding process is considerably easier if time is on your side!

So how do you get started?

I would encourage you to spend 5 minutes to write down the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who are the members of your “Dream Team?”
  2. Who are the key stakeholders that need to be involved in the development of your internal Knowledge Management Process?
  3. What steps need to take place in order to schedule a meeting with these key stakeholders?
  4. By what date are you going to implement your first Knowledge Retention “pilot project?”

Ok, be honest…did you physically write down the answers to these four questions? If you did, congratulations! You have successfully started your Knowledge Retention journey - and getting started is the hardest part.