Joe Torre is now a Dodger

Posted: November 6, 2007 in Baseball

So Joe Torre is now a Dodger, what does that have to do with CRM?  Probably nothing except as a possible parable and the parable probably goes to the software industry as a whole and the nature of disruptive innovation.

Clay Christensen and a long list of others have observed that no innovator has had the good fortune of making succeeding major innovations in the same market.  IBM was great at mainframes but didn’t do well in mini-computers and the mini-makers are all gone now.  In software the mainframe software companies never became the engines of client-server and so on. 

My favorite example from “The Innovator’s Dilemma” were the heavy equipment makers the companies that made backhoes and the like.  In mid-century America that equipment was built using cables to operate the buckets and arms of the equipment.  Cables worked but they often broke and when a cable under tension breaks it’s like a giant weed whacker capable of killing anyone standing nearby.

The next generation of equipment used hydraulics to operate the buckets and arms but it had drawbacks such as raw capacity.  Eventually, the hydraulic makers got their houses — and hoses — in order and all was bliss.  The amazing part was that all this happened right under the noses of the cable based equipment makers who never lifted a finger to compete.  Instead they worked out minor improvements to their products and created line extension products.

What’s all this got to do with baseball?  Maybe a lot.  I think the Yankees overplayed their hand and they did not innovate when they needed to.  They had a good run which was unnaturally extended by George Steinbrenner’s money.  Their talent development organization somehow quit, they relied on price tags to value veteran talent until they became delusional by pricing their own acquisitions above the market.  Unfortunately, they made the mistake of assuming that if the price was high enough the talent must be good.  Usually, but not always, that was the case.

Can anyone truly say that Johnny Damon was worth the money and the years that the Yankees put into his contract?  Can anyone doubt that the Yankees went to the Roger well one time too many?  And A-Rod?  $350 million? Please. A Nobel prize is usually given for a life time of solid creative work to individuals at the tops in their fields and this year it fetched its lucky recipients about $1.5 million.  Go figure.

The Yankees unfairly blamed Joe Torre when all Steinbrenner’s horses and men could no longer put a pennant together again.  The Yankees have a lot of rebuilding to do.  It appears the Dodgers do too but they have the advantage of starting over with a guy who knows how to do it.  The job will be easier for Joe Torre who is relatively unburdened by history in LA and who can build his disruptive innovation there using some of the good pieces from his last dynasty. 

That seems to be the way with disruptive innovation.  Almost like Virgil’s Aeneas a few survivors go elsewhere to rekindle some embers, taking lessons learned and new ideas while also vowing not to recapitulate the mistakes of the past.

Good luck Joe.

So, what did you think?

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