Management Tips

What can we learn from Bull Durham, Simplicity and the game of Baseball?


You just have to love the comical literacy of the phonetics of words. Nuance. There it is. Nuance is defined as a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning or response. Nuance is certainly not something that is front of mind on a day to day basis and it’s nothing like brushing your teeth. There is nothing automatic or repetitive about it and it is something that eludes us all at the best of times; architects, designers and engineers alike.

Think about it for a second.

Who do you know that is well nuanced? Is it you? I find that it’s an odd question because it’s not something that, personally, I can put my finger on when it comes to a person.

Oh no! Is that BAD?

Refined, distinct and degree are all words synonymous with nuance which doesn’t make it any easier to define as a trait in a person. Maybe it’s less about whom you are and more about how you do what you do. How we work and how we respond to a situation or person is my impression where nuance, which I have now defined as a tool, can be used to benefit the outcome of a task or objective.

Here’s an approach to consider.

Nuance makes me think back to a post I wrote a while ago on simplicity (link here). I won’t go back into the merits of simplicity but suffice it to say nuance plays a big role there specifically when it comes to problem solving. Let’s consider the idea that simplicity in project work allows us to distill a problem down to its core so that we can understand its essence. Does that seem right? Getting to the core of an issue? Of course it does but here’s where nuance saunters in with a big gleaming toothy grin. Without the ability to see the subtle differences in the meaning or understanding of the problem how are we ever going to solve it satisfactorily? It goes way beyond the simplicity of identity and recognition, doesn’t it?

Any thoughts on that?

Well then, consider this analogy.

It’s the bottom of the ninth, two out, the game is tied and there are runners on the corners. Can you just FEEL the tension? The batter comes to the plate and starts the dance with his opponent.

Himself (not what you were thinking, huh?)

No one else is around, the world has gone still and all he can see is white leather and red stitching hurtling at him at 90 plus miles an hour. This is the point where patience and perseverance come sliding in to home plate. Nuance. Nuance is the batters ability to recognize the pitchers habits, the motion of the pitchers arm and the instinct to understand when to release his stance and swing away. Nuance defines the years of personal battles to get the hitter to the place he is at that particular moment.

We all know how this story ends or at least how we want it to end.

The point is that baseball is a simple game but somehow, at the same time, incredibly complex. The best players keep it simple and don’t over think what they need to do. The ALMOST famous words of Skip, the coach of the Durham Bulls, where he spouted “This is a simple game; you throw the ball, you hit the ball and you catch the ball.” really say it all. The complexity occurs in the spaces in between which define the good players from the great players. The ability to recognize the subtlety of the game, the nuance, is where the greatness really happens and that is where it happens for you too.

Hey, back to reality buddy.

Baseball is meant to be fun and work is also meant to be fun. That’s partly why I drew this parallel. A baseball team is made up of individuals with a common goal; to have fun, to enjoy life and to work together to succeed. Just as in baseball we need to be able to read our teammates, the situation and our competition with a sensitivity that goes beyond the simplicity of task and solution if we want to excel.

Here are some ideas that help me.

I have to work really hard to remember these and writing them down helps a lot for retention. I struggle every day to keep these ideas front of mind in the situations and interactions I am part of both professionally and personally. Try them out and let me know if they help you in any way or if you have any that work better for you.

Look around. Recognize the little things in a project (subtle details) or team member (inflection, body language) that might make a difference in understanding the problem or who you are dealing with.

Slow down – just a step. Stop, look, really look and see what expressions and movement can show you about a person or situation.

Read the room. Who is in a position of influence? You can sometimes see that before you are introduced. Position yourself appropriately to get the best result or attention you need or require.

Watch and listen. Important information can get lost if you are writing or speaking right off the bat (darn baseball reference snuck back in). Take your time. You will get your opportunity to express yourself.

Breathe. It takes a lot for me to just simply breathe. When I do then the world opens up and ideas and answers become more obvious.

All of this lends itself well to nuance. A subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning or response. Simple? No. Important? Yes. Believe me; I am not stellar at nuance. A lot gets by me but I keep trying and after all practice makes you good at practice. Trying is the key. Unlike baseball you have more than nine innings to get it right. Give it some time and give it a go.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

What are the things that help you see the nuance in a situation?

What can you do to get better at reading people?


About rdopping

interior design guy who loves other stuff; social media, photography, film, food and anything that is good for the growth of the self

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