That was quick: In just five games, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Most experts attributed the victory to their dominant pitching, yet there’s more about the 2010 Giants than Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgartner delivering when it was needed.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy once described it as follow: “We have some characters here, whether you want to call them castoffs or misfits”.
Take Cody Ross. Son of a rodeo rider. The Giants acquired him from the Florida Marlins which waived him just to prevent their rivals from San Diego to get Ross onto their roster. They did not have a spot for him then, but Ross earned one with great performances and started in left field during the World Series. His team mate Pat Burrell was not active at all when the Giants called him up in July. Catcher Buster Posey was playing at minor league Fresno Grizzlies until late May.
And how about fashion? Closer Brian Wilson’s beard is, to say the least, special. So is Tim Lincecum’s hair cut – if calling it a “cut” is appropriate. With his light skin, tall, skinny appearance, it is no coincidence he is nicknamed “The Freak”.
These are not the guys you would bet your money on to win the World Series. But they did.
I’ve been writing about the value of diversity in his blog a couple of times and many companies are looking for ways to become more diverse. The issue is that they do it just for the sake of doing it, not because they are really committed to the concept. It seems to be tough to integrate people that have views, experiences and approaches that are different from those of the majority. So how many “outlaws” can a group take?
By asking the question this way, we are already evaluating. The “normal” group members are fine and the “unusual” ones are disturbing the group. This spirit can be felt all the time. It creates an extremely difficult environment for the “special ones” to work in. Some will be discouraged and hold back. If you hear someone say “he wasn’t as weird as I expected him to be” after the meeting, you know there was something wrong.
Here’s an experiment for you. Maybe you will use it as a thought experiment only. Maybe you will really implement it. I’ve seen it work, so don’t be shy:
Management guru Peter Drucker has a concept he calls F.F.F.F. – “Find a Fellow Freak Faraway”. My translation of it: What if you would create a group only made up of outlaws, of special ones, of freaks, whatever you may want to call them, just like the San Francisco Giants. A group which knows that everybody is different in his way and in which therefore everyone truly accepts all others, because he knows that he will also be accepted by them in turn.
What level of performance would you expect from this group?
Bruce Bochy again on his team: “I compare them to The Dirty Dozen. That’s the way they play but they’ve coalesced into a team that goes out there to win.”
Just because people may have different approaches towards problems doesn’t mean that they lack a sense of urgency or target orientation. Yet in complex environments like sports and business, a straight line may not be the best way to get from A to B. As long as we measure a group’s performance by the deviation from the straight line during the stages of work, we are limiting the group’s potential.
This can be eye-opening:
Once you’ve seen a “freak group” work together, once you’ve seen the level of motivation that comes from the feeling of being trusted and accepted, once you’ve seen them consider other ideas openly and building on them in a productive way, you will realize the real force of bringing together diverse people. And you will realize how the structures we have today limit greatness.
Any hey, you will also understand why the Giants won the World Series…