How often do we find ourselves overthinking our last mistake or spending too much time re-living a recent success?

Neither of these is healthy.

What then is the best way to move forward?

Team USA and Duke University’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski recently shared his views on this, in what he called ‘the next play’ – providing a great answer to this question.

It’s one that he has practiced since the early ‘80s along the sidelines of the basketball court – calling out to his mantra to his players.

He has since explained how by focusing on the ‘next play’ he managed to maintain balance and effectively pursue the future.

It’s something that has impacted my life and my decision making and a topic worth exploring further.

Learning From our Decisions

Life can be interpreted as a series of success and failures.

Learning from those experiences and, in particular, our decision-making ability is important.

One of the best ways to do this, as the late management guru Peter Drucker instructed, is to write about our decisions and our expected outcomes.

Referring back to them later gives us a great insight that can help us with future decision-making. Over time, like building a muscle, we can incrementally improve.

Mike Krzyzewski, or Coach K as he is known, takes this further by seeking to ‘reset’ regularly, using the learnings form the past and applying them to what he calls ‘the next play’.

If you’ve made a mistake – learn from it and move on – turn your attention to what happens next. If you’ve had success, build on the wisdom of those wins.

Far too often in sport there is tendency to rejoice in success and reflect in failure. Teams will watch game tape for hours after a loss, but quickly gloss over wins.

Having what Coach K calls balance is about treating both with equal importance.

Referring back to Peter Drucker, he famously wrote in a 1994 article called Theory of the Business, “unexpected failure is as much a warning as unexpected success and should be taken as seriously as a 60-year-old man’s first “minor” heart attack.”

Ever Changing Environment

Business and sport are littered with numerous examples of organisations and teams failing to evolve with the changing environment.

There are many stories to be told of CEOs and coaches who have relied too much on their old ways that may have led to past successes, only to be found wanting against new competitors or an evolving market.

Having a ‘next play’ mentality requires us to be ready and agile for what lies ahead in the immediate and foreseeable future.

As Albert Einstein famously said when asked why he gave his students the same exam questions twice – “the answers have changed.”

The answers are always changing, it’s our self-awareness to them that can mean the difference between success and failure.

One proven way that has helped me in my work to achieve this is to subscribe to a mindset of strategic abandonment.

Seeking constantly to stop doing things as much as we try to embrace new endeavours. It keeps us, our work and our organisations lean and nimble.

An Opportunity Persepctive

The ‘next play’ perspective also affords us the ability to move from focussing on threats to opportunities.

We consider the ongoing changes and seek for gaps in what is and what can be.

What do the movements in technology, the environment, the market, demographics and behaviours mean to us? How can we exploit them?

Getting rid of what Coach K calls the rear vision mirror gives us the freedom to look ahead with experience and knowledge. It gives us clarity to treat the future as an opportunity rather than a threat.


This article was originally posted on Nick Marvin’s Management articles.

Nick Marvin is a company director, management consultant, and author. Nick Marvin studied Business and Computing at Monash University and has an MBA from RMIT University. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (FAIM) a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Turnaround Management Association. He was listed in the 100 Most Influential West Australians (2015 and 2016) and in 1991, he won Rolling Stone Magazine’s national writing award.

Marvin has been married to Leigh for almost 20 years; they have six children who are home-schooled. They attend daily mass at Victoria Park Catholic Church.