Blind, Deaf, and Dome
I'm not a sports buff. There, I've said it. I can appreciate and coexist with sports. I understand the basics of most sports (except curling; I still see no point in that as an Olympic sport). I can root for teams, and I do have favorites.
So it was a bit of a surprise when I noticed a piece in this morning's Wall Street Journal asking if it was time the NFL banned domes. The authors' claim is that indoor teams develop a dominatingly fast and precise offense because of their "weatherless" environment. First of all, I think the authors of the piece should be sent to a statistics class (the most basic one, please). All of their data is based on either current year selected teams or prior year outliers. Even they acknowledge in the article that the Rams and the Lions (both indoor teams) combined have a 1-11 record this year. They mentioned the 1999 Rams, writing up Kurt Warner's spectacular run as a quarterback to his INDOOR experience at arena football. Maybe they were too busy writing sports briefs to actually catch a game, but the reason Kurt Warner was good was because of the fast pace of arena football. It could have been played at Lambeau Field in January, and it still would have been fast paced.
I'm surprised they didn't recommend banning all outdoor fields south of the Mason-Dixon line while they were at it. After all, if a team can't play in the blinding snow and/or driving rain, what's the point? Personally, I've always assumed the opposite premise was intuitively true, since those who play outdoors in northern climates would naturally be tougher and better able to adapt to any environment.
So why am I going on a tirade about football venues? Well, we do the same thing in business, don't we? Very few companies get to choose their business environment. Every system, every organization operates in an environment. It's a key component of systems thinking. Right now, the general economic environment stinks, but nobody chose this environment (except for the greedy brokers of Wall Street, the shoddy mortgage underwriting policies of the past 15 years, the fine upstanding credible staff at Moody's, and an accountant named O'Leary whose cow knocked over a lantern and started the whole mess).
The trick in systems thinking is to figure out how to modify your system to make the best of your business environment. So our customer base is drying up. Do we make less? Modify our pricing structure? Purchase a new company? Undermine a competitor? Find new products and/or new customers? The bottom line is still the bottom line, regardless of the environment in which it operates. Sometimes you can get lucky and modify the environment. Other times you have to tough it out. Like the Patriots, whose last 10 seasons (2009 included) are 106-44 or the love-em-or-hate-em Packers who have a respectable 84-60 from 2000 to 2008 (adjusting for any flaws in my math if I miscalculated the totals in my brain).
What about you? What's in your environment that you want to blame for your business results? How can you adjust your inputs or transformation processes to adapt in order to get the outputs and feedback loops you desire?
But what do I know? I'm not a sports buff.