The combination game.

Photo by Timothy Tan on Unsplash

In the 1870s a new approach to football was introduced, no not that one, I am referring to soccer.

Football tactics have evolved over the years and continue to do so. Early football games were largely based on physique instead of style, many years ago passing and team harmony was a rarity. Players would receive possession and move forward with teammates following as backups in case the ball lost control, and individual dribbling skills were the highlight of the game. This all changed when ‘Combination’ was introduced.

Queens Park FC used ‘Combination’ in the FA Cup against the Wanderers. The game ended 0–0, but the style of The Queens Park FC impressed their opponents. The combination game is an alternative approach that involved a combination of dribbling and passing skills. This pioneered the passing of the ball instead of individual dribbling, emphasizing teamwork, and cooperation.

This induced a whole new football game, the Queen’s Park playing style spread across other Scottish clubs. The Scottish style would go on to influence notable teams across England such as; Liverpool FC, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Arsenal, Southampton and Derby County. — 6 football tactics that changed the game as we know it

What can creative services learn from soccer?

When we approach design what questions do we ask? How do we develop strategies and find answers to client problems?

I have found a common approach over the years — which is probably why most creative meetings are so mundane and tedious — there is no conversation really happening in a client meeting. The service side is usually trying to find out what the deliverables are and the client is trying to find out how much it will cost and can the deadline be met if they have one.

Everyone wants the answers so they know what to do and move on, but problem-solving and creative processes are not linear. It is possible that no process is, but that’s debatable…We also ask questions we know the answer to but hope we are wrong.

A lot of people don’t invest in process they invest in results and chances are the objectives are not clear, an effective strategy is unlikely, and the conversation is not convincing, so why would anyone invest in a process?

When a client goes to a doctor or a lawyer, they don’t know if the answers will be favourable but they go to them because they have been validated as trustworthy professionals to speak to about specific problems, and whatever they suggest, or recommend after a process of diagnosis, is accepted, relatively speaking. Which the charge for, by the way.

Therefore, there has to be something wrong with creative services that can’t do the same. A process of extracting information is required instead of trying to find a “GPS”. A process, a framework for success is not necessarily one that knows the answers, it’s one that has a proven track record of finding answers, solutions. There is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know…

I believe all this begins with not trying to do everything, not upfront anyway, I believe in this, Blair Enns said “Niche in the front and generalize in the back.” No matter what you do behind the scenes, the upfront service must be specific and narrow…Put your best foot forward etc.

Here is a video from TheFutur with Chris Do:

A narrow focus allows you to develop a process because a process needs an objective. As a company, everyone needs to e behind this objective, ultimately everyone has to be unified behind this narrow focus of services in order to develop better strategies and confidence as a team.

In the background explore other spaces, we learn a lot from other industries, and the knowledge gained is invaluable, but this does not mean you start offering it as a service, this will most likely confuse and derail the vision of the company.

You don’t have to know the answer; you just have to know how to find the answer.”

— Pam O’Connor



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Phillip J. Clayton

Phillip J. Clayton


Brand Design & Development | Brand & Marketing Judge: | Writer | Art & Design | Advertising | Creative Director