This week I’m working in the US, but have also – you’ll be pleased to hear – found time for some rest and relaxation. Last night, for example, I watched one of the NFL play-off games, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

I don’t know that much about American Football, but the basics are that you have four goes (or downs) to move the football 10 yards. If you succeed you then get another 4 downs to move the ball a further 10 yards, and so on until you score a touchdown.

At each ‘down’ the attacking team agrees a specific move, selected from a huge list of possible moves, called the playbook. The ‘plays’ are called by one of the coaching staff and communicated to the team.

Watching the match last night, though, it seemed to me that the some of the most incisive moves came when things went wrong, or when the defending team stymied the proposed play. At that point the attacking team’s Quarter Back had to think on his feet, use his imagination and communicate with his team mates to create a move in the moment. Several of the touchdowns came through these situations.

There is a similarity to strategy and growth. Management teams can become overly focused on their plans and playbooks as they watch play from the sidelines, when they should be trusting their top talent to find innovative new solutions out where the action is really taking place.

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.