How many decisions roll up into that moment when a team scores the final touchdown, winning the Super Bowl — that uber-championship of American football? (And as a New Englander, it is begrudgingly that I offer congrats to the New York Giants.) Millions of decisions, I’d guess, depending on how granular you get. Start at the beginning of the season with scouting and player trades, salary negotiations, pre-season workout regimens, training activities, and logistics. Think about every decision the coaches make about strategies and plays. Every decision each player makes every day, when it comes to maintaining their health, managing stress, and strengthening their skills.
Millions of decisions, some large, some small, culminate in winning the grand prize of football, the covered Lombardi trophy. Football decisions, like decisions in other businesses, are based on multiple sources of insight:
- Data. A recent NBC sports blog article titled, “Unlike Patriots, NFL slow to embrace ‘Moneyball’” highlights the use of data to drive decisions in the game of football. The analytics show that icing the kicker — calling a last-second timeout to put more pressure on him — doesn't work. The cliché that defense wins championships is wrong. And top first-round draft picks are overvalued compared to picks a bit lower.
- People. People don’t make decisions based on data alone. After all, despite data showing that they have a 75% chance of making a first down, players still punt at fourth-and-2. They still ice the kicker. And they still talk about the preeminent importance of a strong defense. Here, the “people” source of insight is the players’ and coaches’ experiences, traditions, habits, and skills. It’s their intuition, their “gut feel,” their beliefs.
- Place. Being in a particular place at a particular time yields unique insights. In the football scenario, players and coaches make decisions based on where the ball and players are on the field. On what’s going on in the game at the moment. Other factors come into play as well – such as the weather, whether the game is home or away, and the condition of the field.
Every team reaching for greatness, in any industry, makes a continuous stream of decisions. All three sources of insight together drive optimized decision making, on the game field and off.