October brings the start of the U.S. baseball championship called the World Series. Baseball, like innovation, is a team sport, and success demands best practices out of the players and team managers. We thought it might be useful compare innovation and baseball given this week’s focus on teams.
Baseball is a diverse sport played in many countries The U.S professional league (called Major League Baseball) has 1200 players from 19 countries. Innovation also requires diversity. A best practice is to make innovation teams diverse in several ways: cross-functional, gender, experience, and cultural. Diverse teams harness the unique perspectives of the team members when applying the innovation and design thinking tools taught in this course.
By the way, how does this MOOC compare to Major League Baseball? We have over 2100 participants from 55 countries! Evidently, diversity is also a driver of learning.
Successful baseball teams are well led. They have managers who inspire but also facilitate. Innovation requires great facilitation as well. In the Discussion Boards, Francisco Javier Zambonino Vázquez pointed out the value of facilitators:
“The facilitator must be neutral. This can be achieved either by purposely avoiding to mislead the team (expert guy but professional enough not to polarize the thinking stream) or by someone who actually knows very little about the problem itself. In fact, since facilitation skills are always required, why not having specialized and neutral facilitators working within innovation teams widespread throughout a given organization? Project after project they can act as skilled tractors for pulling the best out of the people.”
The Cincinnati Reds baseball team recently fired the manager, Dusty Baker. As to why he was fired, MOOC participant William Ropp pointed out:
“I really like Dusty but the Reds needed a new facilitator.”
Dusty Baker had the skills, but not the right skills for what the team needed now. Teams evolve over time. What works at the beginning of a fledging operation doesn’t necessarily work for mature operations. Some of the Cincinnati Reds players did not trust him as a facilitator, so he had to go. Several MOOC participants highlighted the importance of trust in innovation teams.
Success in baseball demands that certain players step up at certain times to lead the teams through a challenge. It might be the pitcher striking out a powerful batter with the bases loaded. It might be a substitute batter hitting in a winning run late in the game. It might be something that happens off the field entirely.
Innovation teams are exactly the same. Different members will have to step up at different times depending on their abilities. In our Voice of the Practitioners video, all of the experts highlighted this idea of changing roles and leadership focus depending on the phase of the project.
Baseball requires multiple skills, skills that can be learned, practiced and perfected. These skills that can be developed on their own, refined and practiced in the offseason, so that when the teams are finally organized with a definitive charge and goal, the respective individuals will be ready.
So it is with innovation and design thinking skills. The goal of the MOOC is to teach, individually, basic tools and processes that an innovation team would follow.
Join us! It’s not too late.