Unproductive Assumptions Can Linger, and We Don’t Even Know It

Take five minutes, and watch this short video below about an Arkansas high school football coach who has thrown out assumptions that nearly every football coach makes.

For the non-football inclined, here’s the basic story. A football team has four chances (called “downs”) to go 10 yards forward. If they succeed, they get four more chances to keep going, with the goal of going all the way down the field and scoring a touchdown.

Most of the time (virtually all of the time), if a team hasn’t gotten the 10 yards after three downs, they punt. That means they kick the ball way down the field to the other team, so that even though they don’t have the ball anymore, the other team is further away from their goal.

Here’s the thing: The numbers say that you’re really better off NOT punting most of the time, and the coach in this video read some research that said you’re ALWAYS better off not punting.

So, unlike every other coach in football, he never punts. How does it work? Pretty darn well, but watch the video.

I’m not here to talk about football strategy. I’m here to remind us all that sometimes unproductive assumptions are so deeply embedded in our thinking that we don’t even know they’re there. This is especially true when EVERYBODY in our field is making the same assumptions.

Got a sneaking gut feeling that something your peers or competitors are doing doesn’t make sense? Check and see if there’s a challengeable assumption underneath it. It could be more about people wanting to avoid standing out than about actually getting better results.

Homepage Photo Credit: “Punt,” © 2010 Hector Alejandro, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.




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