Late March is here, and this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships (lovingly referred to as March Madness) are once again captivating the nation with exciting action. One thing missing is a true Cinderella story – no mid-major school to defy the odds and inject excitement the tournament by upsetting top seeded teams. Cinderellas are typically a primary source of the drama for which the annual spectacle is famous. Without their presence, the allure of the tournament is somewhat dulled.
A trio of teams remaining in the ‘Sweet 16’ entered the tournament seeded #10 or higher in their respective 16 team region, but the three schools are perennial Madness participants. Xavier, North Carolina State, and Ohio are still fighting for the chance to hoist the trophy and cut down the nets when the tournament is all said and done. Despite the fact that none of them are true surprises, the teams are still managing to play the role of the disruptor. These teams enjoy the luxury, having already overcome stronger teams, of having the pressure transferred to their opponents, raising the intensity of each matchup as teams are eliminated leading up to the Final Four and championship game. Even without the true ‘Cinderella,’ the temperature increases as the stakes are raised thanks to these upstart squads.
In the sports world, as in business, disruptors are the true driving force behind greatness. New ideas – the innovative and, more importantly, the unexpected – turn the wheels of change across industry. For example, Redbox’s emergence disrupted the business of DVD rentals, changing the long-standing establishment of video rental stores for the better, and hurting major players like Blockbuster. Netflix’s streaming model further changed the climate; today, the unexpected changes brought on by newer technologies have completely revolutionized the industry.
In all likelihood, the fire of the three ‘semi-Cinderella’ schools will soon be extinguished by top seeds, but the possibility for one of them to attain the ultimate goal and achieve greatness is still real. Like the players and coaches, businesses should keep the dream alive and strive to introduce their own brand of excitement into the establishment.