“‘I’m going to do it anyway’ is usually not a good setup for success!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
To golf, you need to know how to do all these things, consistently, in order, at the right time.
If you do not do these things, in the right order, it might not go well. Golf is all about the rhythm, mindset, tempo, and pre-shot setup. Given that it is summertime, I’ve got a few games going on. And while I’m out there, I can’t help but relate the success and failure that I see on a personal level to issues of mindset, leadership, and innovation success. That’s because we often make decisions out on the course that are similar to the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis in our careers and our organizations.
Many of those decisions are not the right ones – but we pursue them anyways, even though we know it is wrong.
Consider, for example, one of the worst, and most consistent mistakes that a golfer can make – the ‘I’m going to hit it anyways’ shot. That’s the one where you know you haven’t teed the ball up properly – it’s too high and you know you are going to have a pop fly, or it’s too low, and you know are going to ‘skull’ it, or you have it set up pointing in the wrong direction and you know it is going to go into the trees or will visit the creek or pond. Seconds before your swing, you know you are doing it wrong, but you decide, “I’m going to hit it anyways.” That thought enters your mind momentarily, but you swing … and it goes spectacularly wrong.
Because, even when you know it was wrong, you decide to do it anyways!
Companies, people, and organizations do the same thing. We consistently pursue actions that we know are likely not to succeed, and yet we do them anyways. We tend to chase the same strategies which we know will not succeed – but we chase them anyways. We make decisions that we know are the wrong ones but they feel comfortable and easy – so we make those decisions anyways. We constantly return to old behaviours that we know have not worked before – but we do them anyways. We becoming too comfortable with things we’ve done before that we know are doomed to fail – but we do them anyways.
There are other things we do in golf that are similar to the leadership and innovation mistakes that we make.
We will often tend to overthink our swing – facetiously, trying to remember all the items in the swing diagram above – and forget to let our setup routine and muscle memory define our action. From a strategy perspective, we sometimes overthink our course of action and response at any given moment, instead of simply doing what we know will work. We will often choose the wrong club, knowing that it isn’t appropriate for the given yardage, thinking that we might pull off some miraculous new reality – in the same way that we make the wrong decision for any particular situation, knowing in our gut it isn’t the right thing to do. We start to rush our swing and our setup, forgetting that a good pre-shot routine is the basis of much golf success – just as the process of careful, deliberate action is sometimes preferable for well-known, previously encountered situations. We try to do a ‘hero shot‘ – thinking we can narrowly move a ball through a 2-foot wide gap in a set of trees 50 yards ahead – when we know in our gut that it is a fool’s errand – in the same way that we try some sort of business ‘hail mary’ when we know the change of success is nil to zero.
There is so much in the game of golf that matches what we do in our corporate lives that it is uncanny. Years ago, when the PGA of America invited me on stage to talk about opportunities for innovation withn the sport, I covered many of these issues. Every golfer in the room was nodding their head in agreement.
Including the fact that when it does not go well, we immediately think of our next opportunity.
Golf – it’s a game of consistently motivating ourselves to move beyond consistent repeatable failure to a time of consistent repeatable success through the avoidance of consistent, repeatable mistakes.
Or something like that.
And we love it!