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Lessons learned from the Warriors

by Tariq Ahmed on May 10, 2016

There’s been a lot of talk in the business world about the lessons learned from the success of the Golden Gate Warriors. Like the importance of mixing things up. Or of keeping payroll lean. Or of exploiting market inefficiencies.

But at AppLovin, where we are huge Warriors fans (we even have a box at Oracle Arena, and boy are we stoked about Curry’s return and that amazing win last night), there are two particular lessons that resonate with us: the importance of truly digging your teammates and of grooming team members to step up or shift gears on a moment’s notice.

The joy of hanging out — and of laughter

One of the coolest things about the Warriors is how much they enjoy each other. For reals. You see the mutual respect and appreciation on the court, of course, but also hear about what goes on off the court (apparently they go bowling and playing practical jokes on each other is not unheard of).

And that’s part of why we love them so much — the pleasure they take in each other is palpable. At AppLovin, there’s a fair amount of love going around, too. We have a beer together in our bar after work. We shoot pool, and in a few weeks, we’re going bowling (just like the Warriors!).

And we take care of each other in original ways (check out Kyler Murlas, our resident master baker). There’s a lot of laughter. Our marketing department regularly collapses laughing over the wordplay of Michael Selvidge, our director of communications, and the San Francisco office has an inside joke about Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself. Down in the Palo Alto office, where I’ve worked since AppLovin’s early days, we have a longstanding jokes about things we tried that have or haven’t worked. Heck, we have t-shirts celebrating these jokes, and we wear them all the time.

The point is that there’s a lot to be said for enjoying your co-workers, and you certainly could argue that when there’s laughter in the workplace, it reduces stress and results are better. Happy teams are productive teams.

Prepare for every eventuality

While we’ve all been waiting with bated breath for Steph Curry to return to the court (check out his 17-point overtime last night), you have to admit it’s been interesting to see how the Warriors have done without him — specifically how other players have stepped up to ensure that even without their star, they can still win. Why? Because they’ve trained in and are enthusiastic about areas other than their assumed speciality. Take Draymond Green. On any other team, he would have been limited mostly to defense — not cultivated to consistently shoot 3-pointers.

As Spartans coach Tom Izzo said, “Everybody worries about positions. Centers want to be centers, forwards want to be power forwards, guards want to be shooting guards, shooting guards want to be the coach. But Draymond — he doesn’t care one bit. He’ll play whatever position. Call him whatever you want. It’s just about winning.” The Warriors picked up on that and they’ve helped develop Draymond’s 3-point shot. Notice how in the past few years he has more than doubled his 3-pointers.

So what’s the lesson learned here? Be aware of and cultivate people’s not-so-obvious talents at work. Doing so not only prepares you for every eventuality — more people will be prepared to address a problem or challenge when it comes along. But from what I’ve seen, it’s good way to keep people really engaged in their work. AppLovin, I’ve seen a statistician switch gears to design and do an incredible job, we have managers who started at entry level, and analysts who grew into account directors. No one is pigeon-holed as being good at just one thing, and that makes for a healthy and productive work environment.

Go Warriors, in every way. For being such incredible athletes, for winning, and for being role models for great teamwork. Steph Curry said it well last night in his post-game interview: “It’s fun to have everyone be involved. That’s when you know you’re really a team — when everyone is contributing.”

Tariq Ahmed is AppLovin’s user interface architect.

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