Baseball: That Great Analogy for Business

Baseball: That Great Analogy for Business

The use of analogies is a well-known and very effective means to deliver important messages. They serve as easy-to-understand examples of complex yet often subtle points. Teachers, politicians, motivational speakers, religious leaders all use them. And in business, successful managers do the same as we push relentlessly for improvement across numerous fronts.

One of my go-to sources for business analogies is baseball where performance is managed on a daily basis by attention to the ebb and flow of a myriad of statistics for both the team and the individual players.

Here’s my favourite baseball tale:

Deep into a losing season, the disheartened, yet ever hopeful, Manager is addressing his players. He asks, “Can anyone tell me the difference between batting 0.250 and batting 0.330?”

Not wanting to go off message, he answers himself, “If you bat 0.250 you’re going to make around $2 million a year, and if you bat 0.330 you’ll make around $20 million a year. So there’s quite an incentive to bat 0.330.  But, as we all know, only a few players are able to do this…”

He pauses to let this seep in and then continues with a follow-up question, “Statistically, what’s the difference between batting 0.250 and batting 0.330?”

And again he answers, “If you’re batting 0.250, for every 12 times at bat you get 3 hits; and if you’re batting 0.330, for every 12 times at bat you get 4 hits.” He carries on, “So the difference between batting 0.250 and making around $2 million a year or batting 0.330 and making around $20 million a year, a difference of one thousand percent, is just 1 hit in 12 or 8.5 percent!”

The Manager’s message is clear and irrefutable: In today’s ultra-competitive world, businesses pay extraordinary premiums for very small gains in performance.What makes this particular analogy so compelling is the overwhelming difference in pay that a player can receive for a mere few percent improvement in performance; but perhaps even more importantly, is the seeming ease of getting that one extra hit every twelve times at bat. Of course, the real challenge – in business as in baseball – is to do it consistently!

Try this analogy the next time you’re looking for a way to highlight the value and simplicity of achieving improved performance. Please share it with your network and colleagues and let me know whether it helped.

Paul Tichauer advises on management issues and mentors senior executives in person and on-line across a broad range of businesses and organizations in the USA, Canada and Europe: | | tel: +1 416 301 9992