After 28 years, in 2008 the Phillies finally clinched the World Series and with it, my attention for the sport. Mind you, I have been watching baseball since I can remember. Having grown up in Venezuela (the second highest source of players for Major League Baseball, thank you very much!), baseball was part of my culture. My father watched baseball every night of the year. I knew the basic rules and enjoyed an afternoon at the ballpark as a very relaxing event. In 2008, though, my interest changed. I wanted to understand what makes a team go from mediocre to great!
In 2008, I also had the opportunity to see an organization get built. Late in 2007, the Senior Leadership in our organization brought on board the Big Boss to put together our group. Some of us were reorganized from another department and the other half was hired from outside. It was then that I had some of the best lessons on how to build the right team. Just like the Phillies were built in the span of 3 years, culminating with the World Series, our team had to be built from scratch.
First we started with a vision. What did this new organization need to accomplish to be successful? What were our goals, our deliverables, and our resources? How did we organize ourselves to reach those goals? The people who were already here were evaluated to find a better fit with the Vision of the new organization. Gaps had to be identified and new comers had to be hired to fill those gaps.
The head of our group took his time to talk to every single one of us to hear our opinions on what we wanted to see happen to the group, what were our strengths, our weaknesses, and our needs. From that point, we identified the changes that needed to be made and the gaps that needed to be covered.
What was really striking is that in selecting candidates, we focused on people who thought very differently from us. That was truly an “aha!” moment for me. The strength of our team was built not on our similarities, but on our differences. We needed to identify experts in different areas, and we had to judge those candidates on the knowledge they had that we lacked. I could find the best cell based assays expert in a group, because I know what to look for. On the other hand, it is very hard to judge if someone else is a good molecular biologist if you don’t know about molecular biology, right?
How frequently do we surround ourselves with people who share our expertise, our knowledge, and our way of thinking? What we miss in those cases is a fresh perspective, a new way of looking at things and a learning opportunity. In addition, innovation comes from taking a multidisciplinary approach to solving a problem.
Our current organization has finally reached some stability after a couple of years of being put together. There were some great additions and some poor fits. Now, we have the opportunity to work with people from different scientific backgrounds and expertise, different views, different management styles, and get to learn every day and come up with better solutions to the same old problems because of our ability to work together and complement each other.
In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series not because all the players could pitch and bat and field, but because their batters (offense), fielders (defense), and pitchers complemented each other. No one player could do it all but, by working together with their different strengths, they conquered the ultimate Baseball title.