The Great Games: Baseball and Business

Jim Haudan
Chief Executive Office
Root

Someone once said that the only two things unique to human history are storytelling and games. Both connect people, create a common language, and define success. In games, there are rules and a scoreboard, and critical thinking is needed to outplay the competition. And, as we know, business is a game.

I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Indians. For decades, they were so bad that Hollywood made spoof movies about them. Finally, in 1995, the Indians made it to the World Series for the first time in 40 years. My family and I were the first people in the ballpark for the first game, high-fiving fans we didn’t even know in passionate anticipation of an Indians victory.

As the pitcher started his windup for the first pitch, two clients I’d brought from Mercedes-Benz in Germany said, “Excuse me – can you get us some hot dogs?” In utter disbelief, I said, “What do you mean? This is the first pitch of the World Series! Just sit down and watch the game!” They were taken aback, and I apologized, but there was a deeper point here.

That day, there were 42,000 people in the stadium, and 41,998 understood the game. Two didn’t have a clue and wanted to get hot dogs. Unfortunately, most organizations have this turned around. They have 42,000 people with 41,998 who don’t understand the game. They don’t know how the players and rules have changed. They don’t understand how to play and what determines winners and losers. They don’t understand how to keep score and don’t even know what the current score is. They’re not connected to the financial levers that determine performance. Worst of all, the 41,998 don’t realize that strategy isn’t something you create and then wait a year to see how it plays out. The strategy is always in motion and must be continually adjusted to give you the best chance to win.

In today’s game of business, we know that 90% of strategies are not executed as intended, 70% of people aren’t actively engaged at work, and these realities cost the U.S. economy about $370 billion annually in lost productivity. To complicate all that, the U.S. economy suffered a $12 billion setback last year. Meanwhile, the number of people playing fantasy football and baseball has increased. The reality is that many of our people are playing strategy every day – just not ours!

We may have had sure-fire ways to win in past seasons, but now we need everyone on our teams to know the current score and status and what they each can do to make a valuable difference. Armed with this information, our teams can see what’s happening today so they can play the game differently in the next inning – and win!