3 Lessons IT Leaders Can Learn From The NFL Draft

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In business, we borrow a lot from sports with respect to terminology, tactics, and even strategy. Some of our most fundamental terms are derived from sports. (How many of us refer to a grouping of people at the project, department, or company level as a “team”?) The parallels in some cases are valid, and in others are overstated. Every year, many of us are captivated by one of the most highly-anticipated events in sports, the NFL Draft. I find some of the behaviors and lessons of the NFL draft to be very applicable to, and validating of, good business practices for IT leaders. Specifically, the following:

1 ) Put a High Priority on Hardworking, Low Profile Individuals

NFL leaders fully comprehend the high priority need for hard working, low profile individuals that will rarely, if ever, show up on a highlight reel, but are critical members of the team nonetheless. Five of the first twenty picks of the draft were offensive linemen, indicating that NFL teams truly value the contributions of those that quietly perform their jobs of executing the game plan while protecting high profile players. Teams are willing to forgo the opportunity to select a highly touted “skill player,””, with all the hype and fan excitement that goes along with it. Businesses can take a lesson from this in terms of personnel mix. Yes, high profile “skill players” are important members of the team, but do not overlook those outside the spotlight that are equally vital.

2 ) Find Individuals that Fit Your Company’s Culture and Philosophies

I was particularly intrigued this year by the stories around the evaluation and selection of Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Texas A&M University. Specifically, the leaked scouting report from the New England Patriots indicating what most of us who follow football already knew: that Manziel is extremely talented from a physical standpoint, but he will likely continue to struggle with character and maturity issues. This analysis was no surprise – the big question was to what degree teams would take this into consideration, and how much weight it would carry in the selection process. The leaked Patriots report confirms what I consider to be a very appropriate position by the Patriots: that “fit” trumps talent. The Patriots analysis did not simply evaluate Manziel’s character in general, it evaluated him in the context of their own culture and philosophies. (“…Will never take football seriously enough for our coaching staff…”). This is an absolutely vital, if not obvious, practice for all organizations, including leaders in the IT world. Talent alone is not enough – the impact to the organization and the overhead required to leverage that talent must be considered.

3) You Might Need to Take the Risk if There is a Talent Gap

The flip side of the Manziel situation is that he was actually picked; 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. This highlights a third lesson for business, one of calculated risk based on a prioritization of needs. While it has not been made public, I suspect that the Browns arrived at a similar analysis of Manziel. It could be that their culture and philosophies are sufficiently different from the Patriots to allow for a good fit for Manziel, but I believe that their specific needs resulted in a risk tolerance that was materially different than the Patriots’. Put simply, the quarterback situation in Cleveland is far less than ideal, and the Patriots have future hall of famer Tom Brady. Yes, Brady is aging, and it would be great to place Manziel under his wing (which would never work – see previous point), but their QB need simply wasn’t as dire as Cleveland’s. My read is that Cleveland was willing to take the risk on Manziel’s character and maturity given the severity of their shortage of talent at quarterback. Businesses need to employ this strategy at times as well. Risk is by definition uncertain. Sometimes it’s worth it to see how it plays out in the interest of the potential upside and/or short term gain. If you have questions on enterprise mobile and software solutions or are interested in ways that AgileThought can help you with IT issues you’re currently facing, please contact us . We’re here to help you find the best solution for your business opportunities!

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