Legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese’s stellar 14-year NFL career was exemplified by his ability to see all angles and think on the go.
Morris A. Graham and Kevin Baize call it “visual-spatial thinking” in their book Executive Thinking. It’s the ability to see things around us and open up our minds to their full potential. They identified the Hall of Famer as a prime example of a spatially coordinated person.
Here’s what Griese did when he squatted behind the centre:
[W]e must be able to read the defence and know what type of coverage our opponent is going to run against us. How many zones? What type of man coverage? What type of blitz? Study the corner back, look to see if he is eying the receiver or quarterback. If he is eyeing the receiver, he is in some type of man coverage. If he is eyeing the quarterback, he is in zone coverage. If he is lined up outside the receiver, he is in zone coverage. If he is lined up inside the receiver, he is in man coverage. If he is standing tall, he is in zone coverage. And, if he is lined inside and looking into the line of scrimmage, he is coming on some kind of stunt. Make sure we have someone pick him up or he is going to hand us our head.
The ability to deconstruct complex objects is two-pronged. First there’s visualisation — creating, changing and interpreting images in your mind. Quarterbacks like Griese do this before the play begins.
Then there’s creative problem solving, which is the real-life manifestation of the vision happening in front of you and the reasoning involved in executing your actions. Good quarterbacks are able to see where the play is going while it’s happening. They have to figure out where their blockers are going to be and where the defenders are moving, while under intense pressure throughout. Then they can figure out what their next course of action will be.
The combination of these abilities is what makes a thinking quarterback. Griese re-creates his vision and alters it accordingly as it happens to achieve the best results.
It’s not too different for executives and managers. Graham and Baize say that “we don’t see a lot of the space around us and thereby limit our capacity for greater brilliance.” Griese didn’t use his own expectations to judge things. Instead, he looked at what was in front of him and saw what was possible.
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