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in Innovation - 20 Mar, 2016
by Art Murray - 2 comments
Turning lemons into lemonade

Late NFL Coach Bill WalshDid you know that the West Coast Offense began as a mistake? Same goes for the cutter fastball in baseball. Pro sports has lots of great examples of how to turn lemons into lemonade. In his book, “The Score Takes Care of Itself,” late NFL Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh recalled how a botched play led to a major change in how football teams run their offense. It goes back to a time when he was an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals…

“Early in the second half of our game with the Oakland Raiders, Bengals tight end Bob Trumpy came out of the huddle and lined up on the wrong end of the line of scrimmage—the left instead of the right side, as the play called for.

“Trumpy recognized his mistake almost immediately and tried to correct it by sliding over to the right side before the ball snap. The Raiders were utilizing a complex pass defense at the time, so when they saw Bob shifting from one end of the line of scrimmage to the other—legal, but not done—all hell broke loose.

“Oakland defensive backs began frantically flapping their arms and screaming, running around and creating havoc as they tried to react to the bizarre movement of Cincinnati’s wandering tight end. Three of them actually collided in the middle of the field. The whole scene was kind of funny, although nobody was laughing on either bench. We lost yardage on the play, and when Bob trotted to the sidelines with a sheepish look on his face, he muttered to head coach Paul Brown, ‘Sorry, Coach. It won’t happen again.’”

Walsh goes on to describe how, while he and the other coaches were reviewing the play on film the following day, everybody in the room laughed. That is, everyone except Bill Johnson, the Bengals’ offensive line coordinator. Instead, he was thinking, “What would happen if we put Trumpy in motion intentionally and worked plays off of it?”

Walsh recalls staying up most of that night thinking up ways of turning what was initially an accident into a tactical advantage. Soon every team in the league had added it to their playbook. Over the years, he built upon this lesson learned, creating what has come to be known as the “West Coast Offense.”

He closes out the story by asking: “What’s your own version of Trumpy’s lemon and Johnson’s lemonade? Is it right there in front of you, unseen because your thinking is rigid and resistant to originality and change? How effective are you at turning nothing into something – something that changes everything?”

Full case writeup…

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  • Norman Duncan //21 Mar 2016

    Ara Bagdasarian has the first book entitled The Lemonade Stand published in 2010. Check
    www,thelemonadestandbook.com. Build your LEMON library and squeeze every ounce of opportunity.

  • Tom McCabe //24 Mar 2016

    This thought is great to keep in mind every day. I personally go through cycles of obsession and then crash – – and then pick up the insights from the ashes. It’s not so much accident, as it is failure that opens my consciousness aperture for new ways of doing things. Even more so, this is probably my main mode of learning – – the failure and rebirth makes for deep lessons. From bumbling idiot to high priest.