Why Bill Belichick cast down his tablet – John Carrier

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer John Carrier

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer John Carrier

From The Conversation

As the New England Patriots’ 10th appearance in a Super Bowl approaches, sports fans are eager to see the legendary pairing of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick take on the Atlanta Falcons. Whatever the Patriots accomplish, though, won’t be thanks to all that fancy new technology assisting the Falcons and other NFL teams.

Since early October, Belichick has been limiting his use of his NFL-issued Microsoft Surface tablet and its related technological systems. On Oct. 2, Belichick was caught on national television tossing his tablet in frustration. The move came after his defense failed to prevent a Buffalo Bills touchdown pass. But what really sparked his ire was something much more common.

Who among us hasn’t, at some point, been so frustrated with a computer or other piece of technology that we contemplated throwing it out a window? The real driver in these situations, though, is far more complex than we might expect: A cascade of system failures comes to a head in a crucial moment.

As a systems researcher, I know that this sort of problem can be much more serious than a multimillionaire football coach expressing his disdain for nonfunctioning technological equipment on a Sunday afternoon. Similar failures underlie industrial accidents and often result in the undermining of technological innovations – eliminating the advantages of the technology because the weaknesses are so stark.

A tool to accomplish a task

What Belichick was trying to do with his tablet sounds straightforward: look at pictures of previous Bills play formations quickly, in order to allow his coaching staff to select and send in the best play to the Patriots defense. The tablet was supposed to deliver those images from cameras high above the field to the sidelines more efficiently than the old system, which required a printout.

Read the full post at The Conversation

John Carrier is a Senior Lecturer of System Dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

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