If you were watching the game on Sunday those last two minutes were excrutiating. And then that last call. OMG. What was Pete Carroll thinking with that last call?

And then I read this piece today, Requiem For a Gambler: Why Pete Carroll Wasn’t Wrong, by Rob Pait, and I got it. Pete made the right call, and we can all learn from it.

The play was a gamble. Carroll admitted as much after the game. He thought the Patriots would be ready for a running play, and took a chance on a passing play. He took full accountability. Naturally, Pete’s being roasted on the Internet by Seahawks fans, who are using “idiot”, “brainless”, and “he should walk up to a cliff and keep walking” in their post-game commentary.

Here’s the thing. Like most of us in our business pursuits, he didn’t make the wrong call.

In order to get into the Super Bowl, Pete’s team needed to execute on one risky play after another to come from behind and beat the Green Bay Packers. He was hailed as a motivational genius. At the end of the first half of Sunday’s game, he took a risk by passing for a touchdown instead of settling for a sure-thing field goal. Chat boards were praising Pete as a master tactician.

Pete did what Pete does. He took calculated risks, and most of the time those risks work. A highly-visible risk didn’t, and now he’s an idiot.

If the play had worked, Pete would have been a genius. But it didn’t. This time. But it has been all season. Where would the Seahawks been this season without Pete taking risks? Without a culture of trying different things? Without a good leader, and a good support system for that leader?

Isn’t that what we should be emulating and celebrating?

Those of us in the legal industry work in a very risk-adverse culture. However, we do need to take risks. Those risks might not take place on the one yard line, and won’t result in being hailed as world champions with the ring to prove it, but we still take risks and step outside our comfort zone. Most of the time those risks do work out; however, sometimes they don’t. Rather than run back to our offices and swearing off said activity forever, or firing the messenger, perhaps a moment to gain perspective is really the next indicated step:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What can be done differently next time?
  4. What lessons were learned?

Within our business environments and law firms we need to learn “how to support appropriate risk without punishing the occasional loss” otherwise we will create “an environment that kills innovation and cedes markets to more nimble, forward-thinking competitors.” And isn’t that what leadership is all about?