What Business Can Learn from the Golden State Warriors

December 22, 2015, 12:00 PM UTC
Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 5: The Golden State Warriors huddle before facing off against the Toronto Raptors on October 5, 2015 at SAP Center in San Jose, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photograph by Noah Graham — NBAE/Getty Images

There’s something different about the Golden State Warriors—and it’s not just because they’re the current title holders. On any given game day, the Warriors can seem like a pack of giddy 6-year-olds. The players have said that their playful bonding is central to their basketball prowess—and a major reason for their success.

The joyful sense of camaraderie at the core of the Warriors’ on- (and off-) court antics can offer lessons to companies about how to build a high-trust, competition-crushing culture. Great Place to Work has found that a fun, inclusive community spirit is important to employees at the World’s 25 Best Multinational Workplaces, which include Google (GOOG), Marriott (MAR), and H&M. These leading organizations show that esprit de corps is a hard-nosed business advantage. So we took a closer look at the Warriors to see what else they might have in common with the world’s best employers. Here, three rules to follow:

1. Have Fun

The Warriors love playing together, and that exuberance translates into high-energy, creative teamwork. After passing to teammate Draymond Green for a layup in a recent game, Warriors forward Andre Iguodala danced crazily down the court. By staying loose, the Warriors overcame a 23-point deficit to win. At companies with super-serious, dreary cultures, employee energy, innovation, and productivity can suffer.

2. Care for Each Other

The Warriors love one another like family members. “It’s a brotherhood,” according to Warriors forward Marreese Speights. “We support every guy that steps on the court, whether it’s 30 minutes or two minutes. Everybody gets the same love.” The collective care reflects coach Steve Kerr’s core values: joy, compassion, mindfulness, and competitiveness. In business, deeper connections among co-workers can translate into greater devotion to the organization’s mission.

3. Cooperation Is Key

The Warriors each have impressive talent, but they put aside personal glory for the good of the team, which topped the NBA in assists last year and is leading again this season. Individual unselfishness—which generates open, higher-percentage shots—is making the team richly successful. It’s rare to find egoless teamwork in the workplace, but it’s a key part of many business success stories.

For more examples of companies that exemplify the Warriors’ sense of community, check out our first-ever list of the 50 Best Workplaces for Camaraderie at fortune.com/camaraderie. The ranking takes into account employee feedback and measures how welcoming and fun companies are to all employees and the extent workers say they “can count on people to cooperate.”

The Warriors began this season by winning 24 games before recording their first loss in mid-December. That impressive winning streak not only set the NBA record for best start to a season but also put the Warriors ahead of the 1884 St. Louis Maroons baseball team for the best season beginning in any of the major U.S. professional sports. Coincidence? We think not.


Ed Frauenheim is director of research and content at Great Place to Work, Fortune’s partner for our list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

To see the full 50 Best Workplaces for Camaraderie list, visit fortune.com/camaraderie.

A version of this article appears in the January 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “Lessons from the Warriors.”

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