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10 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Movie: 'Miracle' This movie covers many important entrepreneurial lessons

By Harsh Pamnani

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Disney Pictures

Miracle (2004) is a sports movie based on the true story about the United States men's ice hockey team, led by head coach Herb Brooks in 1980. The United States' team consisted of amateur players, and was the youngest team in the tournament and in the U.S. national team history whereas competitor teams consisted of professional players with significant experience in international play. This victory of the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team is also remembered as the greatest sports moment of the 20th century as an underdog hockey team of U.S. college students won over the Soviets team that had won 4 Olympic gold medals in the past.

This movie covers many important entrepreneurial lessons. A few of them are as follows:

1. Leader should have hands-on experience

A leader who has gone through the real life experience of failures, struggle and come backs can guide his team effectively during similar situations. In this movie, the leader – Coach Herb Brooks had rich experience in ice hockey. Prior to being the coach of Olympic team, he served as team member in 1964 Olympics and Captain in 1968 Olympics followed by Coach of the University of Minnesota where under his guidance, the University team had won 3 national championships. His own journey and hands-on experience helped him to select and train his team in the right way.

2. Change approach to change things

To make his team more competitive, in his interview with the United States Olympic Committee for the national team coach's job, Herb Brooks proposed to make the strategy, training, schedule, and preparation tougher and competitive. He proposed adoption of hybrid style of Soviet school and Canadian school with focus on improving conditioning, speed, creativity and most importantly, team chemistry. To win, his approach was to utilize individual talents for betterment of team. He made sure that his team took changes positively and understood the outcome they would get through this change.

3. Pursue eminent goals

To accomplish great things, one needs great goals. During his interview for Olympic team coach, when Herb Brooks shared his aspiration to beat the Soviets team, one of the interviewers said that beating the best team in the world was a pretty loft goal. Herb Brooks answered "that's why I want to pursue it.' With his goal, initially he inspired his interviewers and later he inspired his players.

4. Hire the right talent

Hiring is not only about finding talented candidates, but also about building a winning team. While selecting his team, Herb Brooks told his assistant coach Craig Patrick "I am not looking for the best players. I am looking for the right ones.' A few candidates could be great individual achievers, or performers in specific situations but as the new situations' demand, a leader needs to find team members, who are right for that particular situation. Along with the game, a 300-question psychological test was also part of Brooks' selection process that gave him insights on how every player would react under stress.

5. Build a collaborative team

Team members can come from different backgrounds, but they have to unify for a common purpose. In a collaborative team, team members not only represent themselves, they also represent other team members and most importantly their organization. Herb Brooks regularly asked players at training sessions to call out their names, where they're from, and who they play for. For weeks, the players gave their club or university name when asked. But eventually, during a brutal fitness session Herb Brooks mentioned to his players: "When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates. And the name on the front (USA) is a hell lot more important than the one (player name) on the back!' At the end of brutal practice session, players said "I play for the United States of America'. He made sure that 20 young players from different backgrounds, stood as one.

6. Analyze your competition

Knowing your competitors can help you to create strategies that take advantage of your competitors' weaknesses, and improve your own performance. Herb Brooks studied Soviet team carefully and explained strengths of key players such as Boris Mikhailov (team captain), Vladislav Tretiak (considered as the best goaltender in the world at the time) and others. Herb admitted in front of his team that the Russians were a better team. But he inspired confidence in his team by presenting a credible game plan for beating competition and showing full faith that his team can win, if they work hard enough. He mentioned to his players "rest of the world is afraid of them, we won't be'.

7. Shift the mindset

The average age of the U.S. team was 21 years old, making it the youngest team in U.S. team history to play in the Olympics. Team consisted of players from universities that were rivals in college hockey whereas the Soviet players were legendary players in world ice hockey. Usually, small teams have a mindset that they are resource starved and weak to challenge giant teams. But the small teams who shift their mindset are able to take up the challenge to beat the giants by coming up with out-of-the-box ideas and developing capabilities to win over giants. During the Olympic match, Herb Brooks told his team "If we play them ten times they might win nine, but not this game. Not tonight…. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.'

8. Play like champions

Champions are not the ones who always win, champions are the ones who are devoted to give their best every time. Herb Brooks mentioned to his team "win, lose, or tie, you are gonna play like champions!' To showcase one's true potential, it is important for one to approach a challenge with champion's mindset.

9. Avoid any distractions

Distractions can prevent one from giving his best. During an exhibition game against Norway in Oslo that ended in a tie, Brooks noticed the players were distracted by girls and didn't play up to their potential. After the game, he ordered them back on the ice to skate until they got exhausted and understood the point that they play for: The United States of America. He mentioned to the team "Think you can win on talent alone? Gentlemen, you don't have enough talent to win on talent alone.' During matches, Herb avoided giving spotlight to any of his players. To avoid any distractions, he didn't allow even the committee members to meet the players till the final win.

10. Create a chance to believe

A few times, we dream big, and a very few times, we achieve our big dreams. But when we achieve our dreams, we create chance for others to believe that's it's possible to achieve big dreams. Till the final match, Herb Brooks kept pushing his players to give their best. The team tied match with Sweden, and won over Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania, West Germany, The Soviet Union, and Finland. Eventually team won the Gold Medal. Towards the end, Herb Brooks' mentioned "A group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most. A chance for one night, not only to dream. But a chance, once again, to believe.'

This movie acts as a great case study for any company looking to overtake the larger competitors. Moreover, it reconfirms that David can win over Goliath.

(Views expressed are author's personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.)

Harsh Pamnani

Marketer & Author

Harsh is passionate about marketing, and has authored articles in various business publications such as Advertising Age, Business Insider, Business World, Economic Times, Entrepreneur, Firstpost, InformationWeek and Retail. He is an alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur.
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