Strategic Planning is Just Like Baseball, Only Different

“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”* Just like strategic planning, sort of.

I first used SmartDraw to create diagrams for the Little League Baseball team I managed in the 1990’s.  Having never played organized baseball, and possessing little to no natural athletic talent, my approach to coaching was to buy books about the subject and study them.  I discovered that the key to Baseball Playa successful Little League outcome as a coach involved finding unique methods to hold the attention of young players during a game. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also found that recruiting an assistant coach who knows what he’s doing is quite helpful, too.)

In baseball, each player has a responsibility to cover either a specific base or the ball itself. This depends upon what position they are playing and in what direction the batted ball travels.  I found it far more effective to teach nine-year-old boys base- and ball-coverage assignments with diagrams rather than coaching with words alone.  I could show kids, rather simply, the five or so primary directions a hit ball might travel using a visual, and why they might want to take their fingers out of their noses and move somewhere else on the field when that happened.

This was my hands-on introduction to the power of visual communication and how it could apply to many aspects of my personal and business life, such as strategic planning.

According to psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University, as cited in “Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication,” studies show that people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of what they see and do.  My experience with our Little League team was consistent with that account.

VSP_whitepaperA few years ago I applied my experiences and wrote a white paper outlining the principals of using visual communication in business for the strategic planning process.

The principals of visual communication are timeless, whether you are writing a business plan, or trying to win a baseball tournament with a group of nine-year-olds.

By the way, we won our Little League championship that year!

*We think this quote is attributable to Yogi Berra. Although according to Yogi, “I never said most of the things I said.”

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