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A Pitch for Innovation

Go read today’s New York Times article about Pat Venditte. Who is he? He is the only ambidextrous pitcher in NCAA Division 1 college baseball. I also think he is a metaphor for how organizations should hire and train their staff. A little excerpt from the article:

Go read today’s New York Times article about Pat Venditte.

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Who is he? He is the only ambidextrous pitcher in NCAA Division 1 college baseball. I also think he is a metaphor for how organizations should hire and train their staff.

A little excerpt from the article:

The pitch was nothing remarkable: Pat Venditte, Creighton University’s temporarily right-handed pitcher, threw a fastball past a Northern Iowa batter for a called strike three. It was his next windup that evinced this young pitcher’s uniqueness and, perhaps, professional future.

As his teammates whipped the ball around the infield, Venditte smoothly, unthinkingly, removed his custom glove from his left hand and slipped it on his right. Moments later he leaned back, threw a strike left-handed to the next batter, and finished the side in order.

Venditte is smoothly proficient from both sides. His deliveries are not mirror images of each other: as a right-hander he throws over the top and relatively hard, up to 91 miles an hour, with a tumbling curveball; as a left-hander, he relies on a whip-like sidearm delivery and a biting slider.

Organizations operate a lot like baseball teams. On a ballclub, teams have players specialized in every position. Nobody is more specialized than the closer — the relief pitcher brought into pitch one inning, maybe fifteen pitches max, and preserve a win for his ballclub. In an organization, the manager is always looking for someone to fill a specific need, maybe its a role understanding some new technology or a particular expertise with a client or partner.

The problem is, that pitcher is only good in the ninth inning and if they need him to stay in for another inning, he might not be able to pitch again for days. He is great when he is on, but his capabilities are pretty limited. Similarly, when that specialized employee runs out of things to do, or when another employee needs help with something, the specialist may not have much to offer.

The ambidextrous pitcher is the ultimate closer. He wasn’t born that way — he learned how to throw a baseball effectively from each side. So, if you follow the logic, organizations should go out and hire, or train, people to be able to pitch from both sides.

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Direct of New Media, Cone Inc. • Boston, MA • breich@coneinc.com www.coneinc.com

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