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by Rob Spiegel
Yogi Berra was one of the great ballplayers. As well as a top Yankee
hitter and catcher, he also spent years as a successful team manager.
Yet Yogi will also go down in history for his odd comments. He once
picked up a carry-out pizza. The clerk asked if he wanted the pizza
sliced into six or eight pieces. Yogi replied,
"Better make it six, Iím
not that hungry."
Most of his comments were not that idiotic. In fact, Yogiís
witticisms are actually clever, full of hard-won insight. Yogiís wisdom
contains kernels of philosophy that apply to business. Here some
examples of Yogiís observations that are helpful in management.
"If you donít know where youíre going, you wind up someplace else."
This is a great argument for planning. If you are not going in a fixed
direction, you will inevitably drift. A plan may or may not keep your
enterprise on track, but if you have a plan, at least youíll know when
youíre off track. That knowledge increases your chances of making
adjustments before itís too late.
"Never answer an anonymous letter."
The comment certainly sounds
ridiculous, but Yogiís meaning is clear Ė I think. You donít have to
answer to criticism coming from those who are not willing to stand up
and identify themselves. When you take a leadership position, youíll get
potshots, and youíll have to answer for your actions and decisions. But
you donít have to answer to those who wonít stand up to make their
"I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four."
I included this
because I believe fiercely in the benefit of naps. You may have a good
eight to 10 hours of creative work in you during the day. Those hours
may be most effective when theyíre broken up by a nap. The fun part of
Yogiís sentence is that heís talking about a time range in which he fits
his two-hour nap. But it sounds like he means a three-hour nap while
stating a two-hour nap. Oh, forget about it. Just take naps.
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Yogi is giving
directions on how to get to his home. He lived at one end of a large
circular road. No matter what direction you took the fork, it led to
Yogiís house. From a management point of view, it simply means that a
clear decision is better than no decision. So when you come to a place
where you need to make a decision, donít hesitate. He who hesitates is
lost. Is that a Yogi comment?
"You can observe a lot by watching."
Certainly this is true. But what
does he mean? You have to switch around some words to get the meaning.
How about, "You can learn a lot from observing." Or, "You can perceive a
lot by watching." The real meaning here is that you need to study the
environment in which youíre managing. That could mean your market. It
may mean your customersí needs. The lesson here is to pay attention.
Watch. Listen. Get feedback. Business owners stumble when they make
assumptions about their customersí needs. Instead, study your customers,
and their needs will become apparent.
"The future ainít what it used to be."
Yes, the future changes. That
is, our notion of the future changes. As our assumptions change, our
possibilities change. The more you can imagine, the bigger your
potential future. Hopefully, a changed future is a future with greater
challenges and accomplishments.
"It ainít over till itís over."
Sounds dumb, but itís not. Yogi spent
his career in baseball. Itís one of the few games that does not depend
on a clock. The game isnít over after a ring of a bell. Itís over when
the last play had been played, and until then, anything can happen. In
business, as long as you havenít given up, you have a chance to make it.
No matter how difficult your road, youíre not out of play until youíre
out of play.
1997 by Rob Spiegel, author of
Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The
Shoestring Entrepreneurís Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's
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