Strategy, Execution, and the Missing Element for the Huskers

There’s a big problem in the college football sports world. Well, in my opinion anyway. The Nebraska Cornhuskers, my alma mater, have momentarily lost relevance. At least, tens of thousands of Husker fans around the world and I hope it’s momentary.

And the entire Husker Nation is trying to figure out why.

The situation with the Huskers serves as a metaphor for business and life also.

I think of the problem through the lens of a strategy, innovation, and transformation expert. Not as a coach. I could never do Coach Riley’s job and neither could almost everyone else that’s criticizing him (though there’s no shortage of critics who suggest they know better).

Is it a strategy problem? Maybe. There are lots of views out there that criticize both the offensive and defensive schemes Coach Riley and his team are using. Good strategy is essential to win in sports, business, and most every walk of life. But I don’t think this is the most important issue.

Is it a problem of execution? Well, yes and no, but not for the reasons most think. Successful execution is an output that is dependent on other things like good strategy, skill, talent, practice, etc. But the Huskers have all of that.

I think the main problem the Huskers have is with another variable that defines the quality of execution.


In my opinion, the missing element for the Huskers is emotion. The “not too high, not too low” approach is bogus. The Huskers need to practice and play with emotional energy and fire. And learn how to handle negative emotions while using positive emotion to fuel performance. Here’s why.

Emotion comes from a large portion of the brain that monitors and processes all the senses. It informs the rational portion of the brain. And it activates systems in the body to perform certain actions, like the release of adrenaline among others. And as a result, emotions animate us to do things that under normal conditions we wouldn’t, and actually couldn’t, do. To play without emotion is to play without the benefit of a huge part of our brain, the intelligence it affords us, and the execution it stimulates.

No body can play effectively with half their brain tied behind their back.

The most fun part of the season so far was the brief moments towards the end of the Wisconsin game. Emotion animated everyone. There was celebration and dancing. The music blared. Players jumped around and danced. The crowd was one of the loudest ever.

That’s the kind of emotion Nebraska needs. Emotion that informs. Emotion that activates. Emotion that animates.

Coach Riley is an even-keeled man of good character with a strategy that can work. The players have the talent and abilities to get the job done. Coach Riley and his staff need to practice and sustain emotion. It’s the missing element.