Thursday, October 02, 2003

In Which Ken Macha
Meets Anaximander  

"The only constant is change" -- Anaximander

Last night's playoff game between the Athletics and Red Sox ended with a big surprise. The game was decided in the bottom of the 12th inning by a successful squeeze bunt from Ramon Hernandez, the Athletics' catcher that plated the game-winning run.

The A's don't bunt. The A's had the second-lowest regular-season bunt total of any A.L. team (22 successful attempts). The A's are devoted to the sabermetric view that bunting is a net-negative strategy. The A's won this important game because they bunted.

Their manager, Ken Macha, went against their predictable strategy with a net-negative approach and won. Pure Anaximander. The Bosox' infield was back, not looking for the bunt (tweaking the equation in the As favor). In a tied extra-inning game going into the bottom of an inning, optimising run potential, the purpose of offense in the first eight innings, is thrown out the window -- a single run wins a game, so a strategy like the bunt (which normally increases slightly the chance of scoring one run while devastating the chances to score more than one), has a different net.

Combine the different net advatage potential with an opponent that isn't looking for it, and you remake the value of the strategy, the probabilities of success.

Outside of baseball, especially in competitive or negotation situations, shifting strategies to surprise your competitor or the party on the other side of the table can make the known value of an approach change.

TIP: Be willing to challenge your assumptions, all the "knowns" in how your organization values non-core precepts and approaches. Change the playing field, or bunt when your competitor isn't looking for it. Change, surprise, unpredictability changes the long-ago-calculated & known equations we live by. Think Ken Macha to overcome resistance or break a log-jam in a negotiation.

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