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  • What Can Baseball Teach Us About Business

    Baseball photo from ShutterstockLast week I had the privilege and pleasure of watching my son’s baseball team play and win the Washington State 3A Championship. More than a few times during the championship game I was reminded that baseball is a lot like business. There are a lot of moving parts to monitor, evaluate and respond to… in real-time.

    In both baseball and business there is a lot of teamwork and camaraderie that needs to happen in order to succeed. Of course, there are individual efforts that are recognized and rewarded in each. More on that later. One of other less recognized aspects of baseball (and business) is that there can be a lot of downtime. Where downtime means a gap in time between what may be perceived as rest and a very focused activity. This “downtime” that needs to be managed effectively in order to be successful when your moment in the spotlight comes.

    I made a few observations about the game of baseball and the parallels to business.

    Observation #1 – Rules & Strategy

    For those that love the game they realized a long time ago that baseball is a game of rules and strategy. Just like business. Baseball and Business run together in a lot of different ways. The rules might be different, but strategies can be applied to both business and baseball.

    Observation #2 – Downtime is for Sharpening the Saw

    Those downtimes can be put to good use. They need to be put to good use. The masters of the game… whether they are players or coaches… they are all exceptionally good at managing their downtime. It’s during these downtimes that the masters of the game Sharpen the Saw. My primary observation here is that a true student of the game will pay as much attention during their downtime as they do with their field time. Again, this same principle applies to business too. Whatever your chosen field of endeavor happens to be you should seek to use your downtime effectively.

    I also observed that there are three critical elements to success in baseball that also apply to business.

    Three Critical Areas of Baseball and Business Strategy

    These may not be the terms that are used in business, but they are apropos for describing what happens in business. Every business needs to have an offense, a defense, and in my opinion a solid dose of sportsmanship. Below are a few ways baseball and business have a lot of similarities for each. I can’t possibly cover every aspect here, but I’ll hit some of the highlights. If you have something else to add please add a note to the comments.

    Offense

    • Baseball – You always need to put your best foot forward. Which is why the batter with the highest on-base-percentage (OBP) is usually one of the first ones at the plate. However, just getting one person on base isn’t going to win the game. There is a lot of strategy that comes into play to get that runner to the next base and ultimately to home plate to score.
    • Business – In business the same basic rules apply. You want to put your best sales people forward and empower them with the tools they need to do their job. You want to make sure the ones with the highest On-Base-Percentage sees the most customers.

    Defense

    • Baseball – Each of the 9 players on the field need to determine how they are going to play the ball. Every play is different. How you set up is important. Getting the ball is one thing. Knowing what to do with it is another. Great baseball players are thinking 1 or 2 plays ahead. Just like great business people and a lot like chess masters.
    • Business – Just like in business every situation is different. Study the playing field understand how to play the game and react accordingly. Obvious things like knowing your competition are important. It’s also important to know, as in baseball, what you are going to do next.

    Sportsmanship

    • Baseball – As we’ve been taught since grade school there is a lot more than just playing a game. The best athletes are also great at sharing their passion for the game in a way that might be very competitive, but ultimately they respect their opponents.
    • Business – Ethical and moral behavior are also paramount to a successful long term business strategy. Business people and baseball players also want to follow the Golden Rule.

    Three More Parallels between Business and Baseball

    I have found there are many other aspects to the sport of baseball and the execution of a successful game or season that have direct parallels to business. Some of these may not use the same terms, as mentioned above, but the end result is often the same. Again, I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments for other aspects and parallels of business and baseball. My first one below is about the fans… or really the Super Fans.

    Who are your Super Fans?

    One thing about baseball is that having great fans is a huge benefit. It sure seems like the home team has a definitive advantage. When those home team fans travel to see the team play these Super Fans can provide a boost to the players. I saw this first hand at the championship game my son played in last week. A group of students, parents and alumni traveled over 200 miles to cheer the team on. Did it work? You bet it did! Everyone was pumped up.

    This is also true in business. Having friends (aka fans) that will be there to pump you up and be cheerleader (in business parlance… an advocate) for you is a very good thing. Friends and Super-Fans can also help you evaluate, understand, and position yourself can help you become a better and more successful business person.

    Teamwork Matters

    Home runs are great. But base hits are better. To me base hits show teamwork. Maybe I’m the only one that thinks this, but I think there is more to it. Sure, every player wants to hit home runs. But, to me swinging for the fences and trying to hit home runs every time is a little bit selfish. I think a better and more effective use of an at-bat is to become a master of the game and hit the ball where it needs to be to get the base runners around and score. Obviously, a home run does this, but the reality is… they are very hard to achieve. A more effective use of an at-bat is one that helps the team move the runners into scoring position. That’s teamwork.

    Take a Break and S-t-r-e-t-c-h

    In baseball there is a 7th Inning Stretch. I’m suggesting there should be a similar effort in business. There is a lot of history as to why this time honored tradition started here, but the point is… it is important to take a break. To Step Back and look at the biggest picture. Perhaps even hum or sing a few bars of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game

    Extra Innings… There’s More Where This Came From

    As mentioned at the beginning of this post Baseball and Business are games of strategy. There isn’t enough time to cover every strategy for baseball or business here. However, with the few points that have been laid out here I hope you can see the parallels between Business and Baseball. I hope these points will help you see your business in a new light and perhaps shift things up and try a new way to monitor, evaluate and respond … in real-time.

    Even if your business is focused on that big interview for your first post-college job. Using these points will help you Stand Out in your Career. Even if your career is just getting started.

    Good luck at your next at-bat.

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    Also, congratulations to my son and his team for winning the state championship and spurring the idea for this post. There was a lot of planning, strategy and a fair amount of down time leading up to the big game. The team used this time wisely to Sharpen the Saw… and it worked well.

    Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2. He is currently consulting with Microsoft and partners to drive Community Engagement and Alliances. Follow him on Twitter @jshuey or on LinkedIn: in/JeffShuey

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    Posted in entrepreneurship, Personal Branding, Skill Development, Workplace Success
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