Finding the Seam

Today businesses and entrepreneurs need an active framework for setting strategic direction more like American football. These teams fixate on exploiting any space on the field that is underdefended, even for an instant.

You don’t have to be an American football fan to picture the strategy. Each team lines up against each other, face-to-face, strength against strength. To move the ball down the field, the team with control of the ball has to find some momentary opportunity….

  • Is there an imbalance between player defensive matchups to exploit?
  • Is there a player on the other team who is inexperienced, slightly injured, or fatigued?
  • Can our players find a weakness and pry open a space long enough to advance down the field?

In other words, the team tries to find an open seam, a vulnerability in the defense, that will work in that moment. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Right now.

Some coaches are watching the field from high above the game, urgently seeking a weakness, as are coaches on the field. Even players within the game gather in a huddle before every play to share information from the coaches and adjust their strategy.

In this analogy, success doesn’t come from a 50-page document and a two-year plan. Strategy becomes any opportunity that exploits speed, time, and space. And once you break through, you build momentum that will take you as far as you can go, for as long as you can go.

A seam is an undefended – or underdefended – opportunity. It is a fracture in the status quo. 

A common term for a new market or business opportunity is “finding a white space.” A seam is a white space with urgency.

Like an elite athlete, once entrepreneurs find a seam, they need to accelerate to maximum speed and push that space forward for their benefit as long as possible. And then they need to look for the next seam.

From “Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds” by Mark Schaefer