High-Stakes Games: Corporate Learning and Football


This Sunday, February 1, 2015 is Super Bowl XLIX, arguably the most popular professional sports championship of the year. The New England Patriots will battle the Seattle Seahawks for the winner-take-all title. With two closely matched teams facing off, let’s take a look at what both sides will need to do in order to take home the Lombardi trophy – and how training for the biggest game of the year is remarkably similar to developing a successful corporate training program.

To be successful, corporate learning programs need a champion, similar to a quarterback or a coach. The champion has ownership of and drives the overall strategic discussion at an executive level. In a cooperate setting, s/he understands how training can impact business, budget, and structure. On the field, he recognizes how the training affects execution of plays, ultimately resulting in a win or loss. The champion has the responsibility of aligning the team to the organization’s goals to ensure the desired outcomes are reached. Agility is of paramount importance. In football, having the ability to respond with different strategies and tactics as you move from game to game, and play to play is crucial. In corporate training, it is about preparing employees to respond with speed and agility to changing circumstances and challenges.

The program champion makes carefully calculated decisions as to who should operate in each position and how. The positions each member of a team plays are essential to success. It’s no fluke that Tom Brady is the Patriots quarterback. He has three Super Bowl wins under his belt, and in the midst of high stakes games he makes smart decisions under pressure. Similarly, the Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, holds the record for most regular season wins by a quarterback in their first three years in the league (34) and he consistently leads his team with poise, assurance, and implausible intelligence. In the same respect, corporate team members need to be in specifically suited positions to maximize success. From the leadership team at headquarters to the crew stationed on an oil rig, it is essential for each member to be trained effectively and be prepared to adeptly handle changes in their environment.

The teams that earn their place in the Super Bowl are the ones best prepared to respond with speed and agility, whether to play formations, an unfamiliar stadium or weather conditions. Similarly, businesses that operate most effectively, especially in high-stakes environments, are those that are best prepared and nimble in the face of both expected and unexpected situations. The Patriots and Seahawks have demonstrated results; they have shown the league that the training and preparation they put in each week has led them to succeed. When it comes to ensuring that your organization is are prepared, make sure your people are thoroughly trained  and that your team is led by the right champion.  After all, a “deflated” training plan can be a real nightmare!