Published on: May 24, 2023
by Michael Sansolo
In a time of such widespread polarization, it’s always hard to find any issue that seems to have near unanimous support. Yet, the current baseball season may offer one such example.
As any baseball fan knows, the game has incorporated a number of new rules this year aimed at vastly speeding the pace of play. Incredibly, it is working. Games that were taking in excess of three and half-hours a year ago are now finishing about 60 minutes faster.
That might not sound like a big deal to you if you don’t care about baseball. But to those of us who do, it means that watching baseball no longer includes endless machinations by players preparing to pitch or hit. Now they just get down to it.
And in many ways, it returns the pace of play to something that was commonplace a few decades back.
But as with so many great ideas, the key is in the details and that’s where we find an unintended consequence with all kinds of lessons for businesses of all types.
A good friend of mine who is a season-ticket holder for the Baltimore Orioles laid out the problem for me as we attended a recent (and fairly speedy game.) The pace of play, he said, is terrific, but given the new speed there is no longer sufficient time to leave one’s seat to find a bathroom, and get food or a drink.
As he explained, now you are guaranteed to miss some action no matter how quickly you run through your needs.
My friend’s comment struck a chord with me as I sat through a recent Orioles game and noticed that his observation was dead on. Every time one of us ran off to get some type of refreshment, we missed key action on the field.
This is where the business lesson comes in. It isn't just that the game is faster, but also that Oriole Park at Camden Yards has failed to staff its various concessions at the levels necessary to keep people moving and minimize the time away from their seats.
Granted, baseball stadiums are doubtlessly facing the same hiring problems as everyone else, but if the goal of the business is to improve the customer experience with a quicker game, that same business needs to consider other impacts likely from the new rules. In short, stadiums need to find ways to serve customers faster so that they don’t miss key plays while waiting in line for a hot dog and a beer.
Given the strong reliance on the Ballpark app, perhaps stadiums need focus on remote ordering with quick pick up spots, learning from what so many retailers mastered during the pandemic. Better yet, as KC recommends, it might be an excellent place for just-walk-out technology, which is already used elsewhere in the Orioles Stadium among other places. Yesterday we reported here on MNB that the Amazon One biometric payment system, which links one's palm to proof-of-age, currently is being used at Coors Field, with plans to roll it out elsewhere. If staffing can't be expanded, then technologies can be used to streamline the system.
All businesses need to think this way. There are countless changes taking place almost daily, and there needs to be careful thought given to unintended consequences of those changes.
Consider, for example, all the recent talk of companies dumping their traditional print circulars, which seems increasingly logical given the declining readership of newspapers and the growing reliance on electronic communication. I happen to disagree with KC on this one - he thinks that it is time to move on from print circulars, but I think there is a large enough portion of the population that likes them, or either doesn't have or doesn't want to use mobile device technology to access ads, to maintain print circulars for the foreseeable future.
Or, consider the growth of self-scanning checkouts, which are efficient especially in a time of staffing problems. Certainly they have their attractions, but customers who don’t want them can still easily find staffed checkouts in the same store.
The parallels to what happens in a baseball stadium or what happens with print circulars isn’t perfect, but it’s an easy reminder that every change we make - no matter how logical - may not be the perfect answer for every shopper. Or that same change may create unforeseen problems.
Once again, it’s a reason to make certain your company has diverse voices (possibly older voices in some cases) to highlight challenges the new direction might create.
But don’t take too long. The game continues and it’s faster than ever.
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.
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