Is doing nothing, something?
If there’s an off-field parallel to the penalty shootout, it’s the month of January. The arrival of the transfer window coupled with contract renewals and sometimes decisions about the manager’s future make it a month of high-pressure choices, much like the choices our players must make after the 120th minute.
The results in both scenarios are transparent. Just success, or failure; judged after a few minutes in a shootout, and after a few months in the boardroom.
Off the field, we would all like to think that we’re behaving in a way that’s best for our team. But in a shootout, there’s one key actor who doesn’t do what’s best: the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper almost always dives to one side – much more so than would be optimal given the number of kicks down the middle of the goal. A group of economists think they know why: a phenomenon called action bias.
When questioned, some goalkeepers claimed they would feel worse letting in a penalty after standing in the middle than they would if they attempted a dive to either side. Standing in the middle, which is a deviation from the norm, makes a goalkeeper look like he’s not making an effort. He is compelled to act: diving to one side.
This can apply off the field, too. Sometimes we feel the urge to do something – anything – which makes us look like we’re making an effort. New signings fill column inches and create a social media buzz, but perhaps our injured players are returning soon, and some young talent can occupy the bench. A change of manager might bring fresh ideas, but is the underlying performance of the current manager a cause for optimism?
It takes courage and know-how to step back, assess the fundamentals and not make changes for the sake of it. When the norm is to buy players and change managers, it’s hard to do nothing, but sometimes doing nothing is the way to succeed.