Going Against Instinct: A Lesson from a Super Bowl Touchdown

As a Patriots fan, the Super Bowl did not end well for me last Sunday. It was deja vu all over again: a phenomenal catch by a Giants receiver, followed by a game-winning touchdown. But despite the loss and the endless smack talk of my cousins on Facebook, it was a fun and exciting game nonetheless.

There are many plays in the game that stand out for me, especially those that “shoulda coulda” been, but the most interesting one intellectually was the final touchdown drive by the Giants. The more I think about it, the more I see it as a metaphor for the options companies have when working with suppliers and outsource partners.

The Giants had a choice: down the ball at the 1-yard line, keep the clock running, then score a 3-pt field goal as time expires to win the game. Or go for the end zone now, which is what the offense is trained to do, and score the six points to take the lead, but that would then leave time on the clock for a possible Patriots comeback.

The Patriots also had a choice: play tough defense in the red zone and prevent a touchdown, which is what the defense is trained to do, or let the Giants score the touchdown to give your offense a final chance at winning.

A similar situation exists with business relationships. Do you forgo short-term benefits (a quick touchdown) for a bigger payoff down the road (a sure win with a field goal)? Do you play tough defense with your business partners (try to limit them to a field goal or no points) or do you manage the clock instead, perhaps front-loading the benefits they achieve today (let them score a touchdown now) knowing that a bigger prize is possible for you later?

Against their instinct and what they’ve been trained to do, the Patriots defense gave Ahmad Bradshaw an easy path to the end zone, and although he tried to stop at the 1-yard line, either momentum or instinct pushed him over the line. Getting into the end zone and scoring touchdowns is what running backs are trained to do, yet this time it could have cost the Giants the game.

Of course, this is not a perfect metaphor. In the Super Bowl, there has to be a winner and a loser. That is not the case with business relationships, even though many companies approach it that way. A win-win outcome is possible, if you challenge your instincts and, in the right situations, do the opposite of what you’ve been trained to do.


  1. There are interesting dynamic and challenges when talking to suppliers and customers when determining what type of business relationship you hope to achieve. By doing the appropriate discovery at the front end, we can identify our customers long term objectives and strategies with an end goal of a long term business relationship not a short term win. Another lesson people can take from the Super Bowl is that no matter how great some of your team is you are only as good as your weakest link. Hopefully the Patriots can find some wide receivers that can make clutch catches next year. But no matter what the outcome of the Super Bowl was, most people should be grateful that they aren’t a Vikings fan, like I am.