I’m not much of a football fan, but I was completely captivated by the Oregon-Florida State game on New Year’s Day. If nothing else, the score had to get your attention. It was a semi-final for the national college championship, so you’d think the game would be close. But Oregon beat Florida State by a more than convincing 59 to 20.
What was most interesting was how Oregon pulled off the win. It seems as if they were playing a completely different game. Oregon plays a smart, innovative, high tempo game, and Florida State is more traditional.
The implications are profound. Time and again, Oregon snapped the ball before the Florida State defense could even line up. The Seminoles seemed confused and were certainly ineffective. They just couldn’t keep up. In addition, the Ducks’ plays and players were more diverse and flexible. They were able to adjust to whatever they faced in the moment. In the end, Oregon made Florida look incompetent.
When asked about the team’s quick tempo, the Ducks’ quarterback explained that the team practices like that all the time. It’s just the way they play.
IT leaders can learn something from Oregon. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help translate the Ducks’ approach to our world:
- Do you play as if time matters? Oregon can run a multi-first-down, 85-yard touchdown drive in under two minutes. Reliably. When we take on a business objective, we need to master the same up tempo approach. Take a good step. Agree on the next one. Line up and take it. Ask yourselves, is this “just the way we play”?
- Do you practice at speed. Oregon doesn’t wait for game day to kick the tempo up; they practice for it. When we deploy new computers, upgrade servers, evaluate a new app for our contact center, or bring that new acquisition up on our financial software are operating up tempo? Fast, focused, and effective?
- Do you leverage your whole team? FSU quarterback Jameis Wilson actually had more passing yards than Oregon’s quarterback, Marcus Mariota. But Oregon’s innovative, hurry-up style of play worked because each and every Duck brought his brains and his full range of skill to game as well as his heart and his muscles. And their individual strengths were magnified by teamwork. Is that how your team works?
- Do you play your own game. I daresay that Oregon would never have beaten the reigning national championship team if it tried to out-FSU FSU. It dominated by innovating–developing a totally different style of play that was more effective. And make no mistake—the coaches and team took a lot of criticism for blazing their own trail. Right up until game time, many experts called Oregon’s defense “soft.” But they stayed the course and played their own game. We have to ask ourselves where we are stuck with approaches and solutions that could be dramatically improved. How could we craft an utterly different style of play that would make our competition look completely incomp