Football season is starting again and I am just now learning the rules of this national sport. I see football as an analogy to overcoming objections and strong resistances in business. What happens in a football field is the same thing that happens in the marketplace: You have forces that are pushing against each other to gain ground against the other.
One striking difference with football teams is the players’ capacity to make quick decisions, learning from experience trying different approaches, and the way players adapt to change.
Make quick decisions. This last weekend, there was a college game where the quarterback kept thinking of where to throw the ball, he was tackled (Blitz style) by the defensive team at every touch. Eventually, when he was throwing the ball, it looked like he couldn’t manage to target accurately; but at least the game was moving. To me, it is the same in business and in marketing. We cannot sit around and think about what should be done at every single touch. Gathering as a team is necessary for the big breaks and strategic moves, but as for moving play decisions, they should be managed fast. When we need to take an action, making a decision is the only option, whether it is running or passing the ball to a colleague. The more we make decisions, the better we understand our strengths, weaknesses, and other players’ skills. I am not even talking of all the benefits of serendipity (I keep this subject for another post, read this in the meantime).
Try different approaches. These players have human walls in front of them, wh0 are trained ‘hold the line’. I find it fascinating that, despite all the odds of someone like me going through this wall, with the proper training and strategy, it can be done. Some players find the crack in the defense, run and score — with the help of their teammates. Offensive teams are wired to break human walls. When most of us don’t see opportunities, others are wired for success. This is what they have learned in their trainings over the years, hence they are always trying. The “overnight” success Angry Bird (TM) had actually took nearly a decade to become a worldwide phenomenon; it took 51 different approaches to finally achieve the success that was in the team’s ability. They adapted, learned from their missed successes, and finally scored — big time. Just like in football, you have to cross the field to score. Celebrating because you won a yard doesn’t bring the points home. Yes, I agree it is necessary to celebrate successes, but we need to stay focused on the goal. Angry Bird (TM) creator’s have all the time to celebrate with $8.8 billion in the bank.
Be reactive to change. During the game this weekend (you see my efforts not to name the teams:)), the defensive team stole the ball during a pass. This player came from nowhere, stole the ball, and started an offensive attack, shifting all his energy from defending to running for a touch down in half a second. The faster this person can adapt to change, the greater his chances are to turn the game around. This type of fast change and opportunity comes from 1 person in the team who starts running in the opposite direction. Very often, we don’t have time for the whole team to acknowledge the change – to agree with it, discuss it, chop it down, etc. Every second that passes, the new defensive team is recreating its human wall against the offensive player. This is why, if one player sees the change coming, it is necessary that he runs as fast as possible in the direction of the strategy. A quote attributed to Grace Hopper says, ‘it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission’. Each player needs to understand long-term goals, the overall strategy, and be enabled to make tactical decisions that (s)he judges necessary to accomplish the coach’s vision in the best interest of the team. Each player needs to know that he needs to make a difference in the play.
As a summary, I worked on marketing tactics while watching football. This was a nice Labor Day Weekend. How was your football Labor Day Weekend?