The Trade-Off Between Productivity and Adaptability

When I got to the office this morning the WiFi was down.  It put a wrench in my whole day.  I had planned to write a blog post then jump right in to my task list.  Today was one of those productive days.  I could feel it.  But with no WiFi I couldn’t start in my preferred order.  I could do emails and several other things on my phone, but it’s much harder to write a blog post that way, so that had to wait.  I am now off my game, and struggling to get back on.

Some days I’m pretty adaptable.  If I know things are going to be unpredictable, I enter a flexible state of mind and can handle it well (when travelling, for instance).  But even though I handle it well, I’m far less productive when I’m highly adaptive.  I get back from a trip and I have a lot of catching up to do.  I have yet to find that zone where I can be highly productive and still easily roll with unexpected schedule shifts or curve-balls.

This apparent trade-off got me thinking about great sports teams.  Some of the greatest regular season teams are highly productive.  They have a plan, they are excellent at execution, and they deliver results week in, week out.  But many of those teams struggle mightily in the post season.  They face top defenses who have had longer to plan and throw out every trick in the bag.  They can upset the schedule.  Teams who operate far on the productivity side of the continuum suffer from lack of adaptability and can sometimes get blown out just by missing one or two early series.  I’m thinking of football especially.  How many Super Bowl winning teams have been the most consistently productive regular season teams, compared to the more tumultuous, creative, adaptive, and even streaky “big moment” teams?  Outside of Manning’s Colts, not many in my lifetime.

Where does this leave me?  I don’t really know.  I suspect the sweet spot is to find a way to dial in to productive mode for the regular season – the daily grind when travel and tumult are not the norm – and flip the switch to adaptive mode during the post season – the busy times and big moments where a lot is in the air.  I’m not sure how well one person or team can embody both styles of play and change between them on call.  I’ll have to think of some examples.  Still, I suspect that is where consistent greatness comes.  The kind that can win day in, day out, playing to strengths and rising to the big game with whatever’s needed.

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