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The Unconventional Strategy in Action

The Unconventional Strategy in Action

Most of the time, the obvious way around an obstacle isn’t the only way.

Looking for another option is called the unconventional strategy—when you have the same goal as anyone else, but you find a different way to achieve it.

It works in education, career, personal finance, social causes, politics, relationships, etc. Oh, and it can even work in sports and contests too.

Take 27 seconds today to watch this video of a middle-school American football team that adopted an unconventional strategy to achieve a traditional victory.

***

Note: If you’re not from North America and don’t understand this sport, it’s OK; I don’t really follow it either. As far as I can tell, the object is to move the ball down the field without getting a concussion. Normally when you are trying to do that, the players on the other team are trying to stop you—but in this example, the kid with the ball manages to confuse everyone by walking through the defense instead of running and pushing. Nice.

***

Some people feel that adopting the unconventional strategy is cheating. “That’s not fair!” they say, when you succeed without the struggle. It’s not fair to adapt to your surroundings or find a creative solution—and it’s not fair to create an entirely new playbook, because that throws the existing one into chaos.

It’s only natural that some people feel this way. If you spend your whole life taking the long road, of course you’ll be resentful when someone finds a shortcut.

But some rules were made to be broken, and other rules have loopholes. In both cases, there is almost always more than one way to accomplish something.

###

Image: Raggle

81 Comments

  • ryan says:

    Been re-imagining everything for the last couple of months, and this video, well, it helps.

  • Jason Ford says:

    That video was the absolute perfect way to illustrate your point. In response to your post I think another reason some people feel resentful (myself included at times) is because we were looking for a new way, but were bummed to find out someone beat us to it. Or maybe I just don’t like losing. :)

  • Mars Dorian says:

    What a kick-ass video. The kid totally thought outside the box and confused the other team who expected the normal behavior – way to go!

    I believe implementing those unconventional strategies isn’t difficult – action-wise. It’s your brain or thinking that stands in its way – that little voice telling you this can not be done this way.

    Even if you don’t succeed with a strategy like this – the experience you gain from it is invaluable. It’s all about trying out new things and seeing what it brings – moving forward -always.

  • Brett says:

    Hilarious video, and good commentary on unconventional strategies in general. The problem with shortcuts, often, is that once enough people realize it’s possible, everyone wants to emulate them and it no longer becomes possible to keep the same advantage.

  • That’s a nice tricky play. It’s too bad that something like that will only work once. The next time he tries it, he’ll get creamed for sure. The real trick to innovation though is coming up with unconventional strategies that can be used again and again and will not grow stale.

  • Ant says:

    On the last day of a 3 day run along the River Thames (each day was 30 miles), the Thames Path, which we were following, crosses from one side to the other. A ferry is available if you don’t want to walk or run (in this case) the one mile round. I took the ferry. After all it was the Thames Path.

  • Theresa Lode says:

    Great post, Chris. And what a great clip. I watched that thing several times.
    I just so happened to post my review of your book on my blog btw.
    I am recommending it to all my friends.
    Rock on, man!

  • Laurie says:

    Oh, I love it! The power of the unexpected. If you can learn to think sideways instead of trying to go at everything with a bulldozer, amazing things happen.

  • That video is awesome! I love watching the other players just stand there for a moment, staring. “What? Huh? Oh…” Thanks for adding this great illustration to your thoughtful-as-always post.

  • Mark Juane says:

    Brilliant!

    I wonder if that play was called by the coach or by the QB?

    I think it should be mentioned how the other players contributed to what happened. The offensive linemen “sold” the play by remaining in position while the QB walked through the defense. This is unconventional teamwork! Bravo!

  • Andi says:

    *Most* rules were made to be broken! ;-)

  • eyuzwa says:

    Great video clip to underscore “hustle” happening in a lot of different forms around us!

  • Devin says:

    Cute video and generally agree with you. Sadly, the play will likely never work again for anyone.

  • Joan Campion says:

    This is an example of sleazy ethics, taught to these kids by their coach. As if society were not corrupt enough already! And the lesson to the losing kids? What else but “Stick it to the world before the world sticks it to you”?

  • I love the video clip. The first time I saw it, I watched that brilliant play about 5 times.

    Completely unexpected.

  • Gav Duncan says:

    Great photo of a pipe band in the mail.

    Great thinking outside the box in the video! Quite superb.

  • Love the photo of the pipe band in your article. Is it an album cover?

  • Anna says:

    I’ve joined a county wide organization that is looking to improve the health of people and their awareness towards alternatives to being on drugs. Today my passion for actual healthcare could not be contained and I was ‘given’ the task to figure out how to present healthy options that would subtly eliminate the need for prescription drugs to our community. I am so thrilled, and partly because I know that only my nonconventional thinking will really result in something that could work. Wow, it feels great to be able to apply my passion towards something I am passionate about.

    Being able to recognize already that it is time for new ways of thinking, even though I’m working with people who don’t live this way, they recognize that new ideas are needed also- what a place to start!

  • Jeff says:

    Ridiculous. Had to re-watch multiple times, and send this link out to multiple people haha (The link to this article on the blog, not the original youtube link, of course. Got your back, Chris!)

  • Casey Case says:

    That is awesome! Talk about unconventional!

  • Erik Shear says:

    Although this may only work once it illustrates the point Chris is making perfectly. There is always another way to do something. That being said do something like that will completely take his competition in this case the other team off it’s feet. Allowing him to create new opportunities to exploit that yield ongoing benefits.

    Think end-around lol….

  • Michael says:

    Well. That was refreshing. Stunningly refreshing. Now I’m wondering about all those walls I’ve been banging my head against lately. First time I’ve seen calm create confusion. Absolutely brilliant!

  • Murtuza says:

    Nice, unconventional wisdom Chris. Breaking the conventional theory is gutsy and will always been cried upon by its opponents

  • Alex says:

    and the trick for us is to ask ourselves how we can do this sideways unexpected trick, how can we apply it to our lives?

  • Ant says:

    Agreed ! Short-cuts don’t always work, but in this instance its not about short-cuts, its about thinking out side the sphere !

  • Judiknight says:

    Very funny. I had to watch it several times to just imagine what the other team was feeling while they watched him walk by. It is a great lesson. It is like the metaphor where you push against someone you don’t get anywhere but if you just step to the side they go crashing forward and you go on your way.

  • Kim says:

    Wow!!

  • Chris says:

    Thanks, guys.

    @Gav & Catriona,

    Yeah, I liked the pic too – not sure if it’s an album cover or not, but the Flickr link is at the bottom.

    @Joan,

    Not sure why you think it’s “sleazy ethics” – it was a perfectly legal play. I think it was also brilliant and uplifting, but it’s fine that you feel differently.

  • Jodi says:

    This is excellent! My hurdle to overcome is worrying about what people will think. If you’ve grown up being a ‘pleaser’ it can be a bit of a journey to get to unconventional.
    Thanks Chris!

  • Love it! It’s the counter-intuitive approach – slow down.

    Thanks for this. It helps reassure me that my unconventional strategy – let my artist lead – stands a chance.

  • Anna says:

    @Jodi. I grew up the eldest of five and taught to accomodate the needs of those around me to my expense. Somehow, I did not matter. It has indeed been quite a journey to come from conservative fear based christian thinking to even knowing ‘I’ existed and mattered as a human being apart from a ‘need’ to be ‘saved’ but it was worth every hurdle. Peace exists where once only fear did. It is possible. Blessings on your journey.

  • Susan says:

    I love it. Amazing! Reminds me of the story on your Twitter feed about the guy who got free waffles for life by making a video game (all while helping out a kid). Not a bad gig, free food for life.

    Also much like the guys from Autotune the News who are writing a pilot for a show after making fun of news clips and putting it to music.

  • Jenny says:

    Wow. That is brilliant. He just walked through the defense, confusing them, and then scoring for his team!!! hahaha. What great out of the box thinking. Try new things. See if they work. Learn from the experience.

    Love it

  • I like to call that play a glitch. It is not a play that can be employed often, the shear unexpectedness is enough to teach a lesson about rules as you mentioned they are made to be broken. Thank you again for another great post. Getting to the finish line is noticing and exploiting the glitches in the game of life.

  • Unlike @Joan, I don’t find this sleazy at all. Hilarious? Yes. Surprising? Yes. Clever? Yes.

    But sleazy? Not in the least.

    It actually took a lot of guts for that QB and his team to try that maneuver. They had the element of surprise on their side, but were counting 100% on the other team being so baffled by such an unexpected move that they’d not react. Which is exactly what happened!

    I doubt the same play would work a second time with the same opposing team, but what a clever coup!

    Ultimately, it probably made all the boys in that game better prepared for future football games, and for life!

  • Sheila the Wonderbink says:

    My usual line when someone complains that an unconventional solution to a problem feels like ‘cheating’ is “It’s not cheating; it’s using your resources.”

  • Pascal says:

    I liked that section in your book when you write about unconventional strategy. Some people risk more than other in creative thinking and developing the underdog strategies like Tim DeChristopher and his fight against gas compansy (in reference to your book).

    Fighting gatekeepers and finding alternative and creative solution is the main reason why I decided to leave everything behind in Canada and move to Australia with my gf.

    The play used to pass through the defence line in the video is absolutely brilliant. Brett is right about creative solutions, they usually don’t last very long and everyone start trying to take the same shortcuts.

    Well, I enjoyed that post Chris.

  • dave says:

    The NewYorker had a story similar to this one about a guy who decided to coach his daughter’s amateur basketball team and decided to try playing differently to the usual patterns. Ended up winning almost all their games one season.

  • Tim Judson says:

    I completely support the idea of unconventional strategies. Innovation is the source of the best ideas that result in the most impact. But there are clearly examples where a line of “cheating” is crossed, even if the participants thought they were merely being clever. (Anyone want to defend the “innovation” of credit default swaps and they way they were used by financial services companies to bet against the products they were selling to their clients?)

    As for this football clip, I think Frank Deford makes some important points on how he feels this went over that line. So, anyone have some other examples of people who have developed an unconventional strategy and developed a new playbook?

  • Javier Munoz says:

    A interesting feature of a truly unconventional strategy is that it cannot be repeated, specially now that there are no information barriers. This kid won’t be able to repeat this move to get a goal, no one will.

    There are many other examples, the run away success of the Blair Witch Project movie based on a clever social media marketing strategy cannot be replicated… hell the producers failed when they attempted to be as successful with the sequel. What is truly unconventional remains so.

    So an unconventional lifestyle requires tremendous creativity, and you must be comfortable with the concept of failure as a stepping stone and not as a final blow to your attempts. Keep on digging!

  • Meg North says:

    Hi Chris, this was a great post. I’ve been a ‘long-roader’ for much of my life, believing it to be the ethical way or the right way, I suppose. However, my goal of being a famous author feels further away than ever … while others are employing unconventional strategies and landing on the New Fiction table before me. Hmmm … what unconventional suggestions from the readers out there could I follow to reach my own dream? Oh, and I have plenty of stories done. It’s just a matter of getting from here to there. :)

  • grace says:

    AWESOME video Chris, I laughed out loud and then posted it to everyone on my Facebook. It’s too true that true revolutions begin with innovation, in any field and in any industry – in all areas of life. Real innovation is hard because it is the rare, brave person that says YES to crazy ideas and YES where other people say no. Again, love your entries – all a great read to kick off my day, or reassure me after a day of self-doubt. Keep up the good work!

  • And then sometimes this happens. Well I appreciate the sentiment behind innovative thinking, that play is definitely in the gray area — in several leagues it’s an illegal play and the team is penalized (if not fined in the stricter leagues).

    I agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t agree with the example. For those wondering, it’s not that uncommon of a play, particularly in younger leagues. It’s also the coach’s call, meaning the grown man managed to outsmart the 11 year old kid.

    I’ve seen a QB end up with cracked ribs for trying this play because the defender got a 15 yard run and put his helmet squarely into the kids ribs (football pads don’t protect your sides that well, and your helmet lacks peripheral vision — he never saw it coming, and yes, it was a borderline dirty hit).

    Yes to innovation, yes to taking risks, yes to finding shortcuts, no to this play.

  • Dave Shepherd says:

    To add –

    1) The New Yorker article someone linked to earlier is a better example of innovative thinking.

    2) I think this play brings up another aspect of innovation that is sometimes overlooked — this play has been around FOREVER. We were taught to defend against it in high school, and those who played bantam or pee-wee were taught to defend against it. That’s 10-15 years ago.

    The only people that find this play particularly innovative, in general, are people who haven’t played/coached competitive football before. It’s the difference between a random person coming up with an idea for a computer and believing they have a great idea, and a software engineer at Apple coming up with a good idea and KNOWING that it’s a good idea.

    Not every idea is a good one, and success lies in knowing the difference between the good ones and the bad ones.

    Sorry for meandering off-topic.

  • Shelley says:

    Without unconventional thought & occasional rule breaking, there would be no progress, only stagnation. Wonderful article!

  • Brett says:

    Too bad the team that pulled the trick play lost.

    Anyway, I totally agree. Finding the unconventional, easier solution is way, way better than plowing through the traditional path.

    When people say, “It’s not fair! I spent so much time and energy on this and you just took the easy way out!”, I turn to them and say, “I spent tons of time and energy just thinking about the easy solution. It takes work either way.”

  • Rod Edwards says:

    Way to go ! Hope to see another example from youall of thinking & taking risks.

  • Marly says:

    What a friend calls “throwing your hat over the fence.” Let me explain. When you badly want something that’s on the other side of a fence, but you are too scared, worried, out-numbered, too poor, too old, etc. to get it the conventional way, throw your hat,or keys or wallet over the fence so that you have to find a way through, around, under or over to get it.

    Also, one thought on ‘breaking the rules.’ This same friend points out that rules are made to benefit the person who made the rule, not necessarily anybody else.

  • jay says:

    Good post.. Its tough talking about these kind of things because the people around you don’t always see your long term goals the same ways you do.. “The Dip” by Seth Godin was a great book.. basically said that if you’re going to tough it out, you’d better be the best in your industry.. and that obviously takes work. But in the end, it’s worth it.

    I think the only thing that separates the ones who end up finding shortcuts along the way from “the rest” is:

    1. They started to think outside of the box (like this football player)
    2. They hung on longer in an industry or business than the competitors
    3. They just plain put in more hours on the field than the rest (no pun intended)

  • Roy says:

    Awesome. I think it was also on the news recently. Sometimes the solution to our problems are so simple, we just need to think outside the box a little.

  • Sean says:

    Watching that video never gets old! It’s so awesome to watch!

    What’s interesting to think about is whether or not the quarterback was nervous when walking right past the defensive line. Even more rewarding to think about perhaps, was the feeling of victory when the Qback scored while doing something in an “unconventional way”. :)

    This move definitely took guts to pull of and I think that’s the bottom line. Doing something new always requires courage.

  • Chris: Thanks for this video and the perfect accompanying point. This situation illustrates beautifully how the element of surprise works to irritate and/or delight. The opposing team is surprised and irritated, but we observers are surprised and delighted.

  • GutsyWriter says:

    A Gutsy move, and the first time I’ve enjoyed and felt connected to football.

  • John says:

    Sorry, I don’t agree. Athletics is more than just points on the board. The coach took advantage of the naivete of the boys on the other team. Okay for high school, but at this age level when kids are learning the game, the coach is only showing what a prick he is.

  • Sav Coach says:

    Gosh I love this!!! There is something here every team in any organisation could learn from!

  • Nina says:

    What a great video Chris. And great post as always, I especially love the last four lines of your article. Thanks for the motivation!:)

  • Debashri says:

    I dont like or watch sports… but this one had me going Yes! as he made it to the goal line (donno if that’s what it’s called)

    I love how you ended the post… It seems so unfair to those who do things the traditional way and find out that the old way or the ‘right’ way of doing things NOT result in achievement.

    But you dont get anywhere by being resentful of other people’s success, I’d rather throw my hands up and cheer for the winner even if it’s not me

  • What a powerful video!

    Thinking outside of the box separates us from mediocrity when we take a moment to figure out how to do something differently.And when we do – TOUCHDOWN!

    Thanks for the inspiration Chris,

    Alex

  • Haha genius! I love how the QB falls when he chest bumps his teammate. Clearly he wouldn’t have been able to handle being tackled. Good thing he avoided all that messiness!

  • Rich Dixon says:

    I guess I’m the “unconventional commenter.” I see the video differently. My first reaction was a chuckle, and really it’s not a big deal–only a kids’ game.

    Looking deeper, it depends on the goal and your definition of success. If it’s “win no matter what” you take one approach. If it’s “learn how to play football” you might see it differently. If it’s “win within the spirit of the game and treat adversaries respectfully” …

    Personally, I’d classify this tactic as a failure. Funny, short-term success, but big-picture failure.

  • Great choice of video to illustrate the point. It’s one of my favorites.

    You’re right of course. All rules were meant to be broken. That’s why science continues to rewrite the textbooks with every new discovery. And that’s why business ought to be doing the same.

  • Bernice says:

    It’s awesome to see people come up with innovative ways of doing things, of thinking outside the box. They will always come up against obstacles and naysayers, as everyone else wants to keep them inside the box with them!

  • Andrzej says:

    Great idea for a solution! I sure had a laugh of it :D

  • Wow! That was a great video. It’s nice to see people thinking outside the box. I guess that was a not-so-subtle hint for me to do the same.

    Thank you very much!

  • Evonne says:

    The timing of this video is perfect. It’s -30 here in Canada, I’m feeling discouraged… thinking,” just get a job like very one else!”
    Haven’t had one yet. Last job was in 1977, I was a teenager.
    It’s a crazy world out there.
    PS I have worked since then … always for myself.
    Cheers

  • Wow, what an amazing way to illustrate your point! I have seen that video a few times now and never realized how powerful it really is! Thank you for reminding me to both look for and celebrate unconventional ways of looking at life!

  • Haha! That is a hilarious video. Not sure about the legality of the play though. The center hiked it to the QB over the shoulder. What?!@#%$
    But, of course, that’s not the point!
    I am a big believer in “Learn the rules first, then become a master of knowing when breaking them is to your advantage –and legal, moral, and ethical– and when it is not.”
    Because, not to be boring, but sometimes following the rules is the best way to go.
    Balance it!

    Thanks, Chris!

    Peter

  • Luisss says:

    Fantastic video. Sometimes it’s really easy to find a solution, you just have to keep it simple and don’t complicate.

  • Josh says:

    Great example Chris!

    I think the best way to look at being unconventional is to simply ask ‘why?’ or ‘why not?’ a lot.

    Having new eyes on something helps, too, since they aren’t stuck with the ‘well that’s just the way it works’ perspective.

  • Jordan says:

    I love that clip. I coached football last year, and don’t think that play should ever work, but it was so well executed!

    Rules are definitely made to be broken, because it makes the game and life more interesting. Finding a loophole excites me, and there are so many to find, in so many aspects of life. There is some reward for taking the long way round, but striving to be a game changer is more exciting.

  • Rules are made to be broken. Once you know what you are expected to do – then find a more creative way to achieve better results. If entrepreneurs and inventors never asked – ‘Is there a better way’ – and stuck to tried and true – we would still be in the dark ages! Bring on the light – long live the rule breakers!

  • Nick says:

    Not sure how I feel about the validity/effectiveness of this particular example. Sure it’s fun and lighthearted and all, but the whole point of the trick was that the opposing team thought that play had stopped, for whatever reason (at least that’s what I see). It was a means to an end, but it was also undeniably sneaky and deceptive – someone who assumes this kind of strategy, regardless of whether they think it’s ‘right’ or not, is going to have to face those kinds of descriptors (sneaky, deceptive, tricky, deceitful, sly, etc.) especially when the obstacles they are overcoming are other human beings (i.e. it’s much easier to exploit inanimate stuff than it is to exploit the naivete/unintelligence/beliefs of other human beings without being called those things). On top of all that, this play will probably only ever work once for this team – everyone else is now going to look out for this trick the next time they play.

  • Galen Pearl says:

    That video is priceless–I’ve already watched it five times! I spend more time watching football than I care to admit, and I never ever would have come up with a stategy like this. How wonderful that it was envisioned by a middle school football team. Delightfully bold and surprising! What an inspiration. I’m going to remember it next time I am “stuck.” Thank you!!

  • Tommy says:

    The message I take from the video is not that the unconventional works, but that even kids these days are being taught the unfortunate lesson that if it’s not a violation of the rules, or the law, then it’s OK to do it. What would have been called ungentlemanly conduct in the past is now part of school sport.

    And then we wonder why disasters like Enron and all that followed take place.

  • Jim Johnson says:

    I appreciate your (and others’) input on thinking outside of the box – it just recently paid off for me. I asked to apply for something at my job, but I was told the deadline had passed. I asked what I would need to do to apply after the deadline. She proceded to tell me what I would need to do to apply, but then reiterated that it’s a hard and fast rule: The deadline had passed. I just clarified the procedure and thanked her, as she repeated that I couldn’t do it. I submitted the application anyway, and I just got it! Huzzah! Thanks to you and others like you who think outside the box. You helped me to stroll through the defenders.

  • Dave Charest says:

    My wife and I saw this clip the other night.

    I believe it’s one thing to look for ways to cheat the system that allow you to win on a technicality rather than any real achievement. I’m not so much for that.

    But something like this that does something unexpected but completely within the rules and in-line with the spirit of the game is great.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Dan S says:

    Legit play. Cheating? Did not see it. But, as soon as the ball was picked up it a live ball and someone should of tackle him. Good creative play.

  • absolutely brilliant thinking & action! i had to replay it several times, chortling with glee. i wish i was that kid… every day. okay, let me start working on it….

  • Broughin It says:

    Brilliant, sometimes under doing it is better than over doing it.

  • Ravi says:

    That is the best football play I have EVER seen!

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