With the major league baseball season upon us, think about an innovation lesson now common in many baseball leagues, but not all: the designated hitter rule. (Or more specifically, Major League Baseball Rule 6.10 for you precise baseball fans.)
The designated hitter rule, which Wikipedia suggests was almost implemented in the 1920s, allows a baseball team to substitute a hitter for the team’s pitcher in its regular batting lineup.
While preparing a strategic thinking workshop for a client, it struck me that the designated hitter rule takes what used to happen as an irregular event for a baseball team (and still does for National League teams) and simply extends it.
Extending an Irregular Event
Specifically, it’s always been possible to substitute players in a baseball lineup. Before the designated hitter rule, it was common for baseball teams to substitute for the pitcher, especially late in the baseball game. The reasoning behind this is using a pinch hitter to get a strong batter to the plate in place of pitchers, who are notoriously weak hitters. A team is willing to bet that the pinch hitter’s effectiveness in a particular batting situation will be greater than any downside of losing access to the current pitcher for the rest of the game.
In essence, the designate hitter rule says, if that move is a good one in a specific situation, let’s extend it, doing it all the time for the benefit multiple audiences.
And that’s a great innovation lesson.
The Innovation Lesson in the Designated Hitter Rule
Rather than only looking for high frequency situations in your organization and exploring them for innovation opportunities, look in the fringes for innovation opportunities you can extend to more situations.
Ask, observe, and identify what your organization is doing that might be considered an irregular event, a temporary situation, or only done in very special or specific circumstance.
After identifying possible innovation opportunities, see if you can extend these special cases to apply all the time to improve performance and results.