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The Battle Between Tradition and Innovation Hits Home Plate – Where a Few Subtle Moves Yield Measurable Impact

Updated: Feb 28



Seeking to improve the fan experience, Major League Baseball collaborated with players to adjust America’s favorite pastime. Why change a game that has been successfully executed for 150 years? As analytics and technology advanced the management of the game off the field, it translated to homeruns, strikeouts, lower batting averages, a “shift” in defensive play, longer games, and less action on the field.


The MLB’s fan-driven initiative rendered three changes to the game – pitch timer, bigger bases, and elimination of “the shift.”


If you watch the World Series this week, you may not even notice a difference. However, the results have been immediate and measurable. As for the returns on Year 1, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred couldn’t be happier. “The games are shorter; there’s more action in the game; there’s more athleticism, defense, base stealing, things that fans want to see. So, from that perspective, we see it as a huge success. The best thing about it [was] fans voted with their feet. Our attendance was up 9.6%. It’s the biggest increase in 30 years in baseball.”


As CTOs/CIOs/business leaders prepare for the next wave of digital transformation, they must demonstrate shorter-term business impacts from technology investments (base hits) and achieve larger innovation goals that evolve the organization’s business model (up 9.6%).


I like how the MLB picked 3 enhancements and thoughtfully, strategically, and comically notified fans (change management).


Taking a few tips from their playbook, here are my takeaways to win big:


  • Consider change management from the very beginning.

  • Focus on outcomes, not technology.

  • For example, it is easy to get lost in data or technology conversations around baseball. Instead, the MLB increased the size of the bases. This made it safer for players (reducing injuries) and easier to steal bases (more fun).

  • Target investments that improve your customer experience.

  • Don’t prioritize too many KPIs.

  • When it comes to innovation, go for base hits.



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