By Maurie Cashman
Opportunities to learn often come suddenly and then they are gone. Great performers are able to identify and capture those opportunities to learn very quickly from an experience or situation they are presented with. Great managers have the experience to see these opportunities and create environments for their team to consistently capture these fleeting moments when experience is created.
â€œLearning is not compulsory; its voluntary. But to survive, we must learn.â€
W. Edwards Deming
Those of you who know me know that I am a die-hard Cubs fan but also a rabid fan of the game of baseball. I am of the camp that baseball if a great metaphor of life. Baseball is the one sport in which there are 162 games in a season to determine which teams are the best. Sometimes being â€œthe bestâ€ means the best at adapting to what happens over the course of a season and learning from situations. The best organizations capture those experiences within their players and it shows up later.
This yearâ€™s World Series offers a clear contrast. The Cubs are an extremely talented team and dominated baseball for most of the 2016 season. They adapted to a devastating injury in the first week of the season to their starting left fielder in the process, something that few teams could have survived.
However, they are very young. And young players are susceptible to the pressures of situations they are put in when playing in the playoffs and World Series. â€œSometimes our greatest strength is our youth; sometimes our greatest weakness is our youth,â€ [David] Ross, 39, noted philosophically.
It is showing up, particularly on offense where these young hitters are facing a small group of very experiences and extremely crafty pitchers. The Cleveland pitching staff has learned very quickly that they do not need to throw strikes to Cubs hitters to get them out. As soon as they get ahead in the count, they throw a variety of breaking balls further and further out of the strike zone and let the hitter get himself out. The Cubs hitters know this, but they are not learning fast enough to counteract the experience of the Cleveland pitching staff.
Contrast this with the Cleveland experience. They had massive injuries to contend with throughout the season and barely got to the playoffs, where they were expected to be a quick out. Instead, they swept both the Divisional and League championship series to get to the World Series. They have very few stars on their roster and are largely made up of a bunch of no-name players. These guys have a ton of experience blended with some very good young talent in key positions. They have been forced to learn and adapt on the fly, and it is showing up in their ability to adapt to what the Cubs are trying to do in the Series.
The key question that will decide this Series is whether the Cubs young players can learn and adapt fast enough to take advantage of seeing the same pitchers for the third time in a week. Or whether the Cleveland pitchers will change what they are doing enough to take advantage of the Cubs inexperience.
What can we learn from this?
- Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. We must capitalize on our strengths and minimize our weaknesses by learning from our successes and mistakes;
- It is critical to capture and pass along the experience in our organizations to new members of the team;
- Sometimes we learn on the fly. Experience under pressure canâ€™t be simulated or replaced;
- The most talented team doesnâ€™t always win. Experience, creativity, team chemistry, recognition of available resources and the ability to assess and adapt quickly will often win;
- Just because we lose out in a situation doesnâ€™t mean it is a failure if we capture what we learn within the organization for the future.
The Cubs have survived to fight another day. Sometimes that is what it is about in business as well. The question is can they/we learn and how fast?
By the way, the answer to the Hong Kong Elementary School First Grade Admissions Test from my last blog is 87. Itâ€™s all in how you look at it. Simple but not obvious.
Â© 2016 Aspen Grove Investments, Inc.