Applied Innovation Blog

Disruption + Baseball, Part 2

No Hitters are awesome.  They start inconspicuously enough...a few guys get up, the pitcher (always) taking his time.  Three guys get up to bat, three guys go sit down.  Everyone else on the field - save the catcher - is hanging out.  The something amazing happens.  

Three guys turn into six.  Six into nine.  People are one really says anything.  Then nine turns into 12 to 15, to 18 and to 21.  Something has happened....but the first rule of a no hitter is the same as the first rule of fight club.  So everyone now starts to pay attention after about seven innings because there is now a lot of "action".  Something has happened and EVERYONE is now interested because this is now a rare event.  Then 21 turns into 24 and the next thing we know 26 batters have come up, 26 batters have gone's the top of the ninth one last batter is up and he is behind in the count....everyone. is. waiting....

Have you seen "For Love of the Game"?  This is a movie about baseball starting Kevin not that one, nor that one, the one where he is fighting for what is basically his last chance on the field and (Spoiler Alert): he relives his entire life to that point (no the other one).  The one where he throws a no-hitter.  Disruption is like a no hitter.  The difference, is that for the opposing have been disrupted.  A guy throwing strikes is not being disruptive...a guy throwing strikes is going to work.  YOU have been disrupted.  And thus we see what disruption actually is.  

Disruption...the unfortunately overused (and misunderstood) word, is something that happens to you.  It is not something that you do.  An industry is disrupted.  An individual is only a disruptor after it is painfully apparent that she has kicked your ass up and down the field all day and you are sitting there with time running out wondering A) How the fuck did this happen? and B) Can we pull off a miracle here and right the ship?  The answers are A) some guy just went to work and did something in a way that everything you tried he had an answer for...and if heatmaps tell us anything, he mainly pitched outside the common area...he was in the "white space".  And B) Probably not.  By the time your batter is down in the count and you find yourself in the ninth inning, you are probably better to start thinking about how you should hire Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to come fix this mess.  Which is why YOU have been disrupted.  Kevin Costner was just going to work...he was throwing where you weren't able to hit....because you weren't looking there.  Your batter's were "moneyballing" the strike zone.  That works nearly always...except when some guy goes to work determined to do something differently...not to "disrupt" but to get by.  A lot of people that are given the honorary title of "disruptor" earn it from a historical lens.  At the time they were "disrupting", they were most certainly outsiders, were operating with less, and doing something outside the norm for the industry.  It just happened to work.  They were not disruptors...someone else was disrupted.  Disruption happens to you,  you witness first it is an inconvenience or just a "normal" part of the industry cycle (everyone gets struck out at some point...nothing to worry about...Kevin Coster can't pitch).  Then, all of a sudden, some asshole isn't throwing properly...everything is outside the strike zone, the umps aren't making calls...this is a problem...someone must be cheating.  By the time we are at batter 27...and he is down 2 strikes in the count, everyone has accepted that something magical has just happened.  

It would take a miracle to end what has been a beautifully pitched no-hitter.  One guy...literally stands between the defeat and the no-hitter.  He has one shot to somehow right the ship, somehow pull out from this disaster that has disrupted him and his team all day.  Kevin Coster has nearly ruined the day.  Last pitch...

You have been disrupted.  Kevin just went to work.  

Disruption + Baseball, Part 1

Baseball season started last week.  For those of you that are fans, welcome to the game that gave us some of the best and most memorable innovation analogies.  As Mayor Wilson is most interested in finding and cultivating breakthrough and disruption opportunities, I thought I would take the opening of the 2014 season to discuss disruption through a real-life and metaphorical example from the baseball diamond.

Have you seen "Moneyball" ?  Yes? No?  Doesn't matter...but if you haven't go see it...good movie.  Great example of watching disruption in action.  "Moneyball" (the movie), was based on "Moneyball" (the book) by Michael Lewis.  Lewis recounts the story of the Oakland A's as they tried to compete against teams with bigger budgets better players and a team that had no stars and thus lower revenues.  Spoiler Alert: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill disrupt baseball.

Basically, down and out Brad Pitt comes across up and out Jonah Hill.  Brad Pitt is desperate for a competitive advantage.  His team sucks, he needs help, and a festively plump Jonah Hill comes along with a crazy idea to use witchcraft* to pick and form a baseball team.

(*witchcraft = mathematics and statistical analysis...basically picking players was a "gut feel" and Jonah Hill used math to prove things like "getting on base" led to more runs and thus more wins.)

Incredibly (yet unsurprisingly), this worked !  Brad Pitt changes baseball forever (because early adopters get the credit), is offered a dream job, and doesn't win a championship...but that wasn't really the point (and that is another post about being the first best).  The best part of the movie is that at the end as Brad Pitt is self-loathing an apparent loss (no championship), Jonah Hill shows him a comical video of a man that hits a homerun but literally falls on his face trying to get to first base and is completely unaware that he had just done something incredible.  This was a metaphor of victory in defeat...or defeat in victory.  Yeah Hollywood.

But Moneyball is a story of how a few people leveraging competitive advantage, plus something they have never done or never thought of changed an entire industry.  It makes for nice entertainment because we like to see underdogs do something cool.  It feeds into this ideal lone hero working against unstoppable odds to change the world.  The reality is that this is also what leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of the innovation process and what disruption actually is.  You don't do disruption.  Disruption happens to you.  Want to know what happens next, Kevin Costner and the no-hitter will tell us what this means.

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Welcome to the Applied Innovation blog !  

We are seeking to deconstruct, demystify, and decentralize the understanding and action of innovation.  The goal is to empower individuals and organizations to manage the ever decreasing cycle of disruption.  We want to wake you up to a new reality - a world where we seek to build and sustain revenue in Trade 3.0 - the Networked Economy.