Shortly after I begin my five year employment stint at Nike, the entire campus population was shuttled to the Portland Convention Center in waves for the roll out of what is known as the Nike Maxims. The Maxims were rolled out with great fan-fare and ado, as is the nature of things at Nike. World class athletes, Phil Knight, trinkets, t-shirts and a highly stylized booklet greeted every employee; again consistent with all things Nike. The presentation was professional in its production values and high in energy; also trademarks of anything rolled out by Nike Inc., and consequently produced by Michael Doherty.
I left with a sense of awe, and I felt that this was the way that all companies should do business. As someone highly down on “the next great thing,” “the flavor of the month,” or “jargon-de-jour,” however I wasn’t too sure that I was sold on the Maxims themselves. I thought that like most “next great things,” these new catch-phrases would go into the dust bin with the likes of platform shoes, beta-max, and Kobe Bryant’s Nike endorsement deal. But they endured, and the closer I studied them the more I understood why.
While I was not privy to the behind-the-scenes development of the Nike Maxims, it is easy to imagine that any kind of committee work is likely to produce little of value, much less something with relevance or longevity. It is why I am still impressed with the Nike Maxims today. At least eight years after the lights dimmed on Phil Knight and Marion Jones, and four years after I left Nike, they are relevant and adaptable. It is a testament to the creativity of Nike leadership and the quality of work that they produced, rarely matched in my experience before or since.
The Nike Maxims are intended to provide a ready guide for those times that Nike employees at all levels found themselves asking the question “What do I do now/next?”
The Nike Maxims are intended to help focus and give synergy to the efforts of all Nike employees worldwide, and to help Nike leverage those synergies to their business advantage.
The Nike Maxims act as a compass and prevent organizational wandering and hence organizational chaos and ineffectiveness.
And as with any well-written piece, the Nike Maxims can be interpreted and adapted to help organizations and individuals in ways, I am sure, Nike never intended or envisioned.
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