Published on: March 15, 2023
by Michael Sansolo
It’s probably the simplest truth about every challenge any of us face in any way possible: the need to adapt our methods, our skills and our approach to ever-changing problems. A rigid adherence to even the greatest skills can work for a while, but as conditions change we all must change with them.
In support of that argument let me cite two current examples from the far flung worlds of baseball and the war in Ukraine, with both leading to the same answer.
Baseball always provides wonderful food for thought such as the lesson Kevin offered in a FaceTime last week. Yet there may be an even better lesson to consider from this year's New York Mets pitching staff.
(A note here. MNB readers probably should be prepared for a plethora of New York Mets citations, allegories and metaphors this year. Tom Furphy, KC and I all are longtime Mets fans.)
During the off-season, the Mets signed pitcher Justin Verlander to a lucrative contract and it’s an easy to justify. Verlander has long been one of the best pitchers in the game and just last year was honored as the top pitcher in the American League.
However, there is this small issue: Verlander is 40-years-old, an age at which most professional athletes are retiring or already a few years into retirement. But Verlander is clearly thinking differently.
Despite his incredible success in recent years, Verlander recognizes that he needs to adapt to best use and protect his aging body, so he is trying to master a new pitch - the change up - that will put less pressure on his arm and give him a way to stay successful even as his usual arsenal of pitches begins to fade thanks to his age. As the Athletic recently reported, he’s studying with Nolan Ryan, a legendary pitcher who used the exact same approach to extend his career to age 46.
Verlander understands he must adapt or retire. He's choosing the former.
In much more stark terms, the fighters in Ukraine are taking a similar approach. As the Washington Post recently reported, the undermanned and under-armed Ukrainians have managed to repeatedly blunt an expected quick Russian victory in their year-old war by continuously adapting their strategy. '
The two very different stories provide a clear lesson to the rest of us who face far less life-threatening issues than the Ukrainians and far less lucrative ones than Verlander. Both stories offer us a clear reminder of the importance of recognizing the changing conditions we constantly face, the changing realities in our skills and abilities and the need to constantly learn, grow, evolve and adapt.
In so many ways, the past few years have demonstrated the necessity of being agile and flexible thanks to the endless challenges of the pandemic followed by economic uncertainty. Those challenges are continuing to force companies to adapt on the fly time and again.
It’s an endless reminder that the single worst phrase to use in baseball, war or business remains: “we’ve always done it that way.” Just remember, adapt or die is far more accurate and useful.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.
For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.