Thursday, May 26, 2005

Management Disinformation: Dusty Baker,
The Cubs, Shock & Awe, Derrek Lee  

One of the ingredients that differentiates successful management from doomed-to-failure amateurism is credibility. And credibility demands honesty in the general case.

There's a time and a place where disinformation can give the organization an advantage and in some special circumstances, managers can harvest that reward without yielding much or any future credibility. Knowing when to execute this maneuver, which I'll call "a Dusty", is one among the trickiest and most complicated things a manager will ever have to calculate.

When the U.S. started the Second War on the Iraqis, there was a sitzkreig period where the civilians at the Defense Department fed the press falsehoods about the type and timing of the attacks that the press then broadcast -- the purpose was to unnerve the Iraqis and keep them off balance, and this approach succeeded in its short-term objectives to a decent degree. Credibility was somewhat diminished, but the press has few options for alternative news sources, and repeating what they've been told is the lowest investment of effort per minute of video or column-inch of copy. And the working press covering the War view themselves as on the same side as the disinformers. So the end result is, while many individuals in the press pack now have and acknowledge reason to disbelieve future briefings, they will report them as though they believe them. It's the path of least resistance. They got away with their disinformation pretty well, but they could learn a few lessons in this from Baseball, specifically by sitting at the feet of the manager of the Chicago Cubs.

Dusty Baker is the master of disinformation and misdirection, not with his players or his own management, apparently, but notably with the press and fans.

He does this, I believe, for three reasons, two of which provide a series of small competitive edges, and the other for personal satisfaction.

Before I explain what the reasons are, let me give you a great example of Baker's version of a Shock and Awe campaign. Just before the season, John Hill writing for The Cub Reporter weblog, wrote a brilliant analysis of a classic Baker public statement, a howler that every many in a tizzy and one that will be remembered for a long time. Quoting Hill's transcript of the Baker statement:

I think walks are over-rated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps. But the guy who walks and can’t run, most of the time they’re clogging up the bases for somebody who can run.

Who’s been the champions the last seven, eight years? Have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks? You ain’t going to walk across the plate. You’re going to hit across the plate. That’s the school I come from.

It’s called hitting, and it ain’t called walking. Do you ever see the top 10 walking? You see top 10 batting average. A lot of those top 10 do walk. But the name of the game is to hit.

Of course, it's an article of faith in the educated baseball community (and anyone outside who read Moneyball), that the walk is not only a valuable, multi-purpose offensive weapon, but the most underrated offensive tool available. Making a public statement like this is like brandishing a pork chop at an Islamic-Jewish Friendship Foundation meeting (or a haggis at any time).

Rather than just react to what Baker said, Hill did the professional researcher thang and investigated what effect Dusty's Declaration had on his team and players' performance...that is, he worked to answer the question how much less does a Baker team walk?

To digest the Hill's description of the background for his study:

So said Dusty Baker before the 2004 season, accidentally overlooking that the name of the game is not to hit but rather to score more runs than your opponent, that the Yankees do quite frequently talk about the merits of on-base percentage and walks, and that baserunners, Farnsworth, Alou or otherwise, have at the very least comic value, and quite often run-scoring value too. “Clogging up the bases” and “you ain’t going to walk across home plate” have become almost as synonymous with Baker as “wait ‘til next year” is with the Cubs. And wait ‘til next year the Cubs have indeed, after a 2004 season that promised much but ultimately delivered nothing more than a third place finish in both the NL Central and Wild Card races.

One of the key reasons cited in the post-mortem was the very attitude to walks that Dusty Baker outlined above. Despite an overwhelmingly impressive lineup, at least on paper, the Cubs ranked 14th in the NL in total walks taken and walks per plate appearance, in both instances ahead of only the Pirates and Diamondbacks, losers of a combined 200 games. Despite ranking a respectable 6th in the NL in batting average, the Cubs wound up 11th in on-base percentage, with the hapless Pirates, Brewers, Mets, Expos and Diamondbacks rounding up the tail. And despite breaking a club record for home runs and as a result displaying more raw power than every other National League team (and 13 American League teams too, in spite of the designated hitter!), the Cubs finished just 7th in the NL in total runs scored. {SNIP}

Hill goes on to argue on-base percentage is less about walks than it is avoiding outs by any means, and that Baker's comments ignore that valuable truth, as well as the fact that walks burn up pitchers' endurance. He uses last year's Boston Red Sox as an example for a team that combined walks + sluggish running (that is, a team that "clogged up the bases" but was notoriously successful). Back to Hill talking indivdual players, and this is where he starts layiong the foundation for his exploration.

...it is rather ironic then that the “poster boy” of their {Red Sox'}sensible hit when possible and walk when not approach was in 2003 a Dusty Baker pupil. Mark Bellhorn hit just .191 in the 2004 playoffs, striking out 17 times in his 47 at-bats. Yet by virtue of his patience and 15 walks in just 14 games, Bellhorn posted an on-base percentage of .397.

{SNIP}Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker spent exactly an entire decade together in San Francisco. It is remarkable that Dusty’s cynical attitude to walks does not seem to have been influenced Bonds’ drawing of 1311 walks on his way to a .450 on-base percentage for that ten-year period. Bonds’ success is intrinsically linked to his extreme selectivity at the plate and his utter refusal to expand the zone. {SNIP} Bonds’ attitude to walks does not seem to have been influenced too much by Baker’s “it’s called hitting” philosophies. And Bellhorn walked in spite of Baker’s attitude too. What impact then do those “clogging up the bases” words from Baker actually have upon his hitters and their plate discipline?

Here's the boiled-down essence of his research:

Dusty Baker first managed a major league team in 1993, and 126 different position players have come to the plate with him as their manager since {SNIP} And of those 126 different players, all but 10 have had major league plate appearances under other managers besides Dusty Baker. Comparing the plate discipline of those 116 players under Dusty Baker to their plate discipline under their other managers then ought to measure the nature and magnitude of any Dusty impact.

Plate discipline though is difficult to measure. Good plate discipline can mean swinging at the first pitch, fouling off the fifth, taking the tenth; it’s about hitting when it’s possible to do so and walking when not. If it’s possible to hit, a walk is a relative failure. Ultimately though, because information as to just how many juicy pitches players swing at and how many unhittable ones they take is non-existent, though walks are an imperfect measure, they will have to do. Ultimately, it’s pretty hard to be selective yet to not draw walks as a result.

He goes on to describe the adjustments he made and didn't make to the data (intentional walks, batter age, etc.), and then he presents the results of his research, a table of players who played both with Baker and other managers, and comparing their walk frequency in each environment (a lower PA/BB means a higher frequency of walks).

And Hill's conclusion:

So it’s true then, Dusty Baker does have a marked impact on how often his players walk - he makes them walk more often! Bellhorn and Bonds, who walked regardless of Dusty’s mutterings, aren’t ironic exceptions at all. No, just about everyone’s at it. {SNIP}

Whatever the reasons though, the fault for the Cubs’ lack of walks and as a result on-base percentage last year clearly lay not with Dusty Baker, regardless of what he had to say this time last year, but with the hitters, and, by implication, the person responsible for acquiring them.

Baker then is not the walk-disser he presents himself to be. He's spreading disinformation to gain two small competitive edges.

The first is that opponents who do not examine the data as rigorously as Hill does (a minority, but still a surprising number of them) will take Baker's words as the Cubs' tactics and select some pitches to pitch them accordingly when in reality, that change will feed into the Cubs' aims.

The second is that a controversially phrased "clogs the bases" rant feeds reporters an ongoing story, deflecting other stories that might not serve the team as well. The rabid-behaving Chicago sportswriters need tart stories to keep things lively, and this occupies that cognitive slot for a while, sopping up inches that might be instead used for stories Baker or Cubs management or their players might consider "mischief".

The third reason is personal. I think Baker doesn't like dealing with the press anymore. They're his partners in a strong sense; the team needs them doing what they do and tries to control their words, but ultimately can't. So when you've been misquoted, distorted, or just said something you shouldn't have but had the quote appear anyway, after a while, you can lose your passion for this necessary relationship. And Baker has always been, even in his playing days, a mite puckish. He likes teasing the press with a Baseball Munchausen tale and watchin' them stumble over each other to get it into print. It makes his quotidian dealings with them seem, temporarily, more bearable.

Feeding external comeptitors disinformation is a standard tool in the management toolbox. Feeding partners or internal "competitors" (managers of other departments) is non-standard, but useful in moderation.

There's a delicate balance to maintain and no magic metrics by which to calculate it. Err on the side of telling the truth and maintaining credibility. Not everyone is in the position Baker or the civilian leakers at the Department of Defense were in that it's the press that ends up being held accountable for printing whoppers. No one at Defense took any hits for the disinformation, but the career of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who made a habit of broadcasting them, is a train-wreck, her credibility strip-mined down through the matrix -- no serious reader will ever believe any story she writes ever again.

Disinformation is like that sweaty stick of dynamite in Lost -- you can use it to leverage some benefit, or turn yourself into a crispy critter.

How often does Dusty Baker tell a whopper? In the near future, I'm going to explore another Baker statement illustrating a different press management technique and well see if this time he was truthful or just being puckish again.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Tony Peña: When Self-Awareness
Trumps Ambition -- Part I  

Tony Peña resigned as manager of the Kansas City Royals last week, early into his third year. There are superb management lessons for non-baseball managers in the event. Tony Pena

In his rookie season as a manager, 2003, he used some clever techniques and environmental advantages to skipper his low-payroll, small developed-talent base crew to a surprise start, a surprise finish and the A.L. Manager of the Year award, which I wrote about here. Last year, with the same roster formula, the 2004 team underperformed to about the same degree Peña's dogged optimism and unrestrained aggression had helped them to overperform in their 2003 campaign. Last year's perfromance, already poor, was eroded by personnel moves, including the trade of the team's best player, Carlos Beltrán. This year, they are already in the tank, with a virtual lock on last place in a division that is not the most high-accomplishment one.

He was always one of my favorite players on the field, an innovator who also clearly was having fun, and now it turns out that, in the toughest of times, he's a bit of an original as a manager, too.

Very few managers ever get to Third Base in the MBB Model: Self-Awareness. As I've written before, a lack of self-awareness can lead to damaging limitations, distortions in decision-making processes and decisions themselves. And because humans' motivations are frequently invisible to them. To realize either you are not producing success through your management anymore, or that you're not having fun enough to continue with the passion required to be effective.

Peña knew. According to this Murray Chass story in the New York Times:

Peña resigned as their manager after another loss last Tuesday night.

"It was his decision," General Manager Allard Baird said. "We were talking after the game, as we do after maybe 80 percent of the games on the road. We started talking about some of our players and then he told me. I was surprised, to say the least. But I understood where he was coming from. For a couple days before that, he was beat up.

"This is a tough gig. When you're going through this process, it's not easy. Losing is losing, young kids or not. We talked through a lot of things, and at the end it was the right thing for Tony and for the organization."<SNIP>

Baird had been a big fan of Peña and his high-energy approach to the job, but in the end Peña himself said he had lost his energy. Efforts to reach Peña by telephone were unsuccessful, but he told The Kansas City Star the day after he resigned that he was no longer having fun.

Managers in baseball and beyond rarely, if ever, resign...they usually get carried out on their shields, fired, dumped, spitcanned, deep-sixed. But Peña went out under his own steam. A quick search for the previous instance of a manager resigning that was about team performance and not personal behaviors (gambling, lying about one's resume, anger management failures). I can't find the previous instance of a manager resigning rather than hanging on for the hubris or the paycheck.

He knew he wasn't being effective, or at least no more effective than anyone else. At 8-25, the Royals' record was unarguably bad. Certainly anyone remotely professional at the job could do that "well". And the special attributes that Peña brings to the table, optimism and unrestrained passion/élan clearly weren't doing anything to make this denuded of established talent team significantly better. So why stay? Why not do something else where perhaps he could make a difference?

Further, he wasn't having fun. Very few high-performing managers are high-performers when they're not juiced by what they do. They can be adequate, perhaps even pretty good, but it's a very rare manager who can achieve outstanding results while being more frustrated+bored than in the zone. To know yourself well enough to know the environment is not going to suddenly develop attributes you can grab on to and ride to the fun zone is pretty fine.

It's an important element of self-awareness to not be so hyperfocused on the quotidian Brownian motion of one's work and job that the essence of why one's there, to make a positive difference, disappears under a hillock of not-important+urgent plaque.

Few managers have the courage to resign when no one is asking them to or pressuring them to do so. When appropriate, it helps the high-performer continue to perform well, preserving her self-image. And it helps the organization or (as in the Royals' case where no one is going to turn this team into a wild-card contender this season) at least doesn't hurt them.

Doing just that, pulling a Peña, being loyal to yourself and to those who cut your paycheck even though it can have a short-term economic cost, is one of the marks of a manager who's successful at reaching Third Base in the MBB Model.

There's another lesson in Peña's move, something every single manager should absolutely know and act upon, but few acknowledge. That's the Law of Problem Evolution and I'll talk about it in my next entry.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bob Wickman's Wisdom or Wacky Weltanschauung?:
The Intentional Balk as Cognitive Terror  

For those people who are capable of producing innovative ideas, the challenge is not usually what to innovate, but when to attempt the new. Organizations tend to resist even the least risky changes at the least risky times. Sometimes it take a rogue move from someone to actually execute the idea, outside of channels.

Baseball has vivid examples of innovations executed by players without their managers' explicit approvals. You know how they say "you can't steal first base"? Harry Davis stole first base (8/13/1902) from second to unnerve the catcher and set him up for a subsequent --successful -- run scoring double-steal. Chisox catcher Jim Essian circa 1977, with Rangers on 1st and 3rd and knowing the double-steal was on, pretended to throw the ball to second but substituted the white spongy padding in his mitt, hiding the ball and subsequently greeting the runner pouring in from third with the ball, an easy tag-out and a giant grin.

You can add another instance, and perhaps take courage from it to try your own innovations, even in what appears to be a less-than-totally-safe environment.

Because last week, Cleveland Indians closer Bob Wickman executed what appears to be the first recorded instance in 129 years of baseball history of an intentional balk.

As most of you know, the balk rule exists to prevent pitchers from trying to fool baserunners and the punishment for a balk is the runner(s) get(s) a free base. It doesn't happen all that often, & the rule and its evolution are quite wacky. I wrote about it some here.

Wickman, though used it to change an environment which he felt was unnecessarily risky to one that, while on the surface looked less promising for his team, actually improved his team's chances for success, at least to his own thinking.This, even though he did it in a "save" situation against a good team, late in the game.

Here's the situation. Bottom of the 9th, Wickman comes in for the Indians to protect a 4-2 lead against the perenially tough Minnesota Twins.

[]Ford flied out to left. none on, one out.
[]Cuddyer singled to shallow left. Runner on 1st, one out.
[]Punto lined out to right. Runner on 1st, one out.
[]Cuddyer to second on fielder's indifference. Runner on 2nd, one out.

Runner on second, close game, and Wickman, according to the newspaper report, remembers an ugly parallel:

A red light went off in Wickman's head. He remembered his blown save of April 21 against the Angels. With Darin Erstad at second, and Garret Anderson at the plate with two out in the ninth, Anderson blooped a pitch into center field to force extra innings. The Indians lost, 6-5, in 10 innings. "That pitch was almost in the other batter's box," Wickman said. Wickman had no proof, but he felt Erstad may have tipped Anderson as to what pitch was coming. He wasn't going to take that same chance Tuesday night. So he intentionally balked Cuddyer to third so he couldn't steal catcher Victor Martinez's signs. "It's the only balk of my career," Wickman said. "Stewart is a semi-power hitter, and he possibly could have hit one out on me if he knew what pitch was coming."

Quite contrarian. Closers are supposed to close the door, and putting a runner on third base with a small lead runs counter to conventional wisdom. Let's set that aside for a moment and look at the hard numbers, emotional issues aside. Remember, the run Cuddyer represents is not the tying or winning run. It's the bottom of the 9th with a two run lead, so this run is irrelevant in and of itself to the team's chances (though it threatens Wickman's personal ERA number).

What are the general case probabilities that a runner on 2nd base with one out will score? that a runner on 3rd base with one out will score? ¿And what's the difference?

Pretty minor. Using tables on a Dan Agonistes entry quoting researchers, the composite average run potential goes from .68 (man on 2nd, one out) to .94 (man on 3rd, one out). Further, there's Tango Tiger's evaluation of probability of winning a game given runners on base, number of outs, game score difference and inning. In the Baseball Primer discussion of Wickman's move, Tango Tiger stated, "Down by 2, man on 2b, 2 out, chance of winning is .052. Move him to 3B, and it's .053. That's a +.001 win change, or the equivalent of +.01 run change in a random situation."

The difference to the Tribe's chances of winning go down +.001 from a purely statistical point of view. Wickman and Martínez gain the advantage of not having to worry about Cuddyer telegraphing stolen signs, and since many who saw the move were convinced at the time it was intentional, he laid some speculative overhead on his antagonists ("why is he doing that?").

The story has a happy ending for Wickman and the Clevelanders, but not without interim drama. He unintentionally walked the next batter, Shannon Stewart, the batter he didn't want getting relayed signs, and a fast enough runner that you wouldn't want him as a tying runner on the bags. Further, Stewart stole second base before Wickman was able to close the deal by striking out Matthew "Don't Call Me LaTroy" LeCroy.

In and beyond baseball, one of two things happens when an innovation of this ilk is deployed in a way that's viewed as a total success. In the Harry Davis case, it inspired some imitators, and within a few years, baseball updated the rule book explicitly to disallow the tactic. In the Essian case, the umpire allowed the out but informed Essian he would never call it that way again, so even without an explicit rule change the potential benefit was erased.

In Wickman's case, the result was ambiguous. The Indians won the game (the ploy "paid off"), but ugly stuff marred the completion. You have to like it, even though, I have to think, Tribe manager Eric Wedge had to hate it, and, I suspect, warned Wickman not to do it again.

The result, from an innovator's point of view, is almost perfect. Immediate success, but enough muddying of the events that it's not going to become a fad. This leaves Wickman (once Wedge is no longer his manager), and you free to reap the benefits undiluted by competitors' adoption or rule-makers' generating barriers.

In your own management, let the talent innovate on the fly, especially when the probabilities of success are roughly comparable. Fear of what might happen is unfounded more often than not; in the Indians' case, I'll bet you the fear the manager had was way out of proportion to the .001 change in probability that his team would win.

Even with all its traditions, baseball is a lot smarter than most endeavors when it comes to initiating and executing innovations. I think that's because results are so measurable, accountable, open, and that in a system that "transparent", reality trumps office politics far more often than not.

But if you loosen the leashes on your talented Wickmen, it might add to your repertoire some new tactics for success.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Scholarly Rigor of Carlos Delgado:
Learning Channels & the Delgado Codex  

While baseball oozes workplace wisdom, there's not, as a rule, as much to harvest from contemporary players as managers and G.M.s. As a sub-culture, the players tend away from erudition. Since mild hazing for sport is a universal feature among teams, players who aren't seeking extra hassles hide their books, speak in monosyllables and with grammar inferior to that of the sixth-graders who hang out at Mall of America. Few players have the courage to be different, especially if it might look "egghead". It's not that all ballplayers are ill-educated -- the ones that aren't, more often than not, choose to act that way.

But then there's Carlos Delgado and the infamous Delgado Codex.

There's a solid workplace lesson from the Marlin slugger. According to the lead in this week's story from Mike Berardino (thanks to Baseball Primer for the find):

Some guys make an out, come back to the dugout and sit there staring into space.

Others take out their frustrations on the bat rack or race back to the clubhouse video monitor.

Carlos Delgado? He writes.

By now you have probably caught this ritual on television. It happened again Tuesday night in Atlanta after a home run off Mike Hampton. Perhaps you have wondered what the Marlins' first baseman was doing. Compiling a grocery list? Composing poetry? Dashing off a note to his parents? Scrawling "I hate pitchers!" over and over?

Oh, he's plotting against pitchers all right, but in a far more constructive way. Soon after each trip to the plate, Delgado, the thinking man's slugger, fills his ever-present composition book with intricate data.

What sort of data? "I can't tell you that," he jokes. "Top secret." Then he relents and lays it all out for a nosy reporter.

Turns out Delgado records the date of the game, the name of the pitcher, the exact sequence of pitches, the progression of the count and the result of each confrontation. If he gets a single, he doesn't just write "single," but puts down precisely where and how he hit the ball.

He'll detail the quality of each pitch, the approximate velocity and movement and anything else about the duel that sticks in his mind. He can fit about three years' worth of data in each lined notebook -- four games per page, one line per plate appearance.

For a little more than the first half of pro baseball's history, almost no-one compiled pitch-by-pitch events. Connie Mack tracked where each opponent's batted balls landed. Branch Rickey's Dodgers owned the services of statistician Allan Roth and he tracked batter, pitcher and other team outcomes (not at the pitch level). Earl Weaver and other Orioles system field managers tracked these personally.

But for at least a decade, most teams, now all of them, compile every pitch on video for replay and subsequent visual analysis by the player and by the coaching staff. [There's some fine documentation of who and how in the St. Louis Cardinals' case in Buzz Bissinger's book Three Nights in August]. Most players take advantage of the video and many benefit.

But Delgado, like a medieval Benedictine at Monte Cassino, personally scribes his knowledge.

If you do not have a photographic memory, you should consider Delgado's approach. He gets results with it (he'd better; in the player subculture, it marks him as an outsider; only the highest-accomplishment individuals can silence the hazing to a bearable whisper). Delgado is most excellent. He's been a regular since 1996, and (numbers courtesy John "Slovakia's Finest All-Natural Slugger" Pastier) here are some of his numbers among batters from 1996-2004.

1    Garret Anderson             350
2    Jeff Kent                   347
3    Craig Biggio                343
4    Carlos Delgado              338
5    Manny Ramirez               332
6    Todd Helton                 328
7    Jeff Bagwell                326
8    Luis Gonzalez               317
9    Shawn Green                 315
10   Edgar Martinez              311

HOMERUNS                        HR
1    Sammy Sosa                  443
2    Barry Bonds                 411
3    Alex Rodriguez              376
4    Jim Thome                   368
5    Rafael Palmeiro             357
6    Manny Ramirez               340
7    Jeff Bagwell                333
8    Carlos Delgado              324
9    Ken Griffey Jr.             312
10   Mark McGwire                306

OPS (3000+ plate appearances)    OPS
1    Barry Bonds               1.188
2    Mark McGwire              1.111
3    Todd Helton               1.048
4    Larry Walker              1.048
5    Manny Ramirez             1.029
6    Jim Thome                 1.004
7    Lance Berkman              .980
8    Vladimir Guerrero          .979
9    Gary Sheffield             .979
10   Jeff Bagwell               .970
11   Alex Rodriguez             .967
12   Sammy Sosa                 .967
13   Frank Thomas               .963
14   Carlos Delgado             .961

RBI                             RBI
1    Sammy Sosa                 1107
2    Manny Ramirez              1098
3    Alex Rodriguez             1075
4    Rafael Palmeiro            1069
5    Jeff Bagwell               1041
6    Carlos Delgado             1023
7    Jim Thome                   995
8    Barry Bonds                 979
9    Chipper Jones               953
10   Jeff Kent                   944

RCAA                           RCAA
1    Barry Bonds                 969
2    Manny Ramirez               529
3    Jim Thome                   507
4    Gary Sheffield              493
5    Jeff Bagwell                464
6    Alex Rodriguez              448
7    Jason Giambi                438
8    Edgar Martinez              427
9    Chipper Jones               421
10   Carlos Delgado              402

RCAA = Lee Sinins' Runs Created Above Average. It suggests Delgado's batting added about 402 runs to the offense of teams he played on. Over 9 seasons, this averages close to 45 runs a year.

This works for Delgado. He's one of the top batters in the game and he wasn't a flash in the pan, but has been persistently above average.

It's not that video doesn't work and this does. Each of us learns through three sensory channels: visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (doing). Most of us have a dominant channel, a medium through which we learn best, and each of the three is the dominant channel for roughly a third of the population. Learning channel theory posits that there is no one way for everyone to get information best -- though if you know a person's most effective channel, you can design a way to maximize her knowledge acquisition.

Aside: One of the reasons computers in the workplace haven't generally made people more productive is because the products tend to be strongly oriented towards the third of the population who are visual learners. They do tend to be productive, because the tool was designed with them in mind. Pointing devices such as the mouse help kinesthetic learners remember where menu items are through small muscle memory. Auditory folk are generally left out of the designers' and manufacturers' play books. Over time -- Angus' Eighth Law -- gravtational fields draw visuals towards computers and tend to push the others away -- people who then become interested enough in computers to design their hardware and software are predominantly visual learners and the cycle gets amplified.

Some people, sadly, have no functional channel to learn no matter how excellent the input or how hard the teacher tries. These people are called "Ben Davis".

Dlegado's tracking technique works for him because with his kinesthetic learning strength, it's a better medium for him to remember. The act of physically writing it down cements additional details in his mind. Because he's rigorous and (the story added) determined to recognize patterns in his data, this approach dovetails with his intellect and delivers what he needs. The fact the he's self-aware (Third Base in the MBB Model) is a cool exception to the general population and to most managers.

I have reasons to believe Carlos Delgado's skill set would make him a strong manager in or outside baseball.

If you don't remember everyhting that goes on in meetings, or if your mind tends to wander, use the Delgado Discipline and take structured notes. Even if you're a visual or auditory learner, in more of the population than not, it'll help cement the events in your mind, force one to pay a little more attention, give you the possibility of an "aha" later.

Brain researchers are executing a lot of studies now on writing's effects on the brain and how different parts of the brain process sensory input, mostly among learning-disabled people -- because that's how you can get funding more easily -- but the insights they harvest are just as useful to more "average" learners. Here's an article. Here's another article for further background.

Not all information is useful, but all information is potentially useful. Acquire as much as you can and if you're in the category of people who are capable of applying pattern recognition to work issues, sift through your notes, even of meetings in the distant past, to refresh your insights. A small investment might yield big Carlos Delgado-sized hits.

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