Pink balls and floodlights – how small changes to traditions produce winning results

cricket bat and ballWhen it comes to sporting traditions, few can rival the sound of (red) leather on willow on a bright English summer’s afternoon.  Idyllic. Iconic.  Cricket at its best…or is it?

It’s certainly a tradition that has stood the test – no pun intended – of time, albeit the sun has not always played its part as wholeheartedly as one might wish.

But over the years, crowds have started to dwindle and some have come to question the five-day format of the sport and whether it can keep pulling in the spectators who are themselves leading increasingly fast-paced lives, rarely able or willing to devote precious time away from the workplace or family to watch their team grind out the runs out in the middle, playing it safe and frequently resulting in a lacklustre draw. ‘At least we didn’t lose,’ fans, commentators and players chorus.

No, but nor did the game make any significant strides forward in maintaining its appeal and, critically, winning round a new generation of followers.

Sound familiar in your business life? Sticking with traditional ways of doing things, not taking any chances by employing some new strategies and tactics, playing by the rules of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t’ fix it’?

You’re not alone. Tried and tested is probably the most typical method of doing business, rarely failing but never taking you to the top of your league either.

So what would happen if you dared to be different, tried dipping your toe in the water of a new way of working, took a winning formula, thought outside the box and just tweaked it around the edges?

We all know the old adage, failing to plan is planning to fail, and to make such sweeping changes to a business model you really need to take those around you with you. It’s what leaders do, and a big part of conveying that message is in the choice of words we use to deliver it.

Pink ballWhen the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that England was to host its first day-night Test Match earlier this month between England the West Indies, they realised it was a chance to capitalise on a new market, engaging with a totally new crowd of spectators. But they also recognised the need to take die-hard fans of the traditional game with them and there’s no mistaking the selling power of the message in their press release announcing the new format and the small but oh so significant change of red ball to pink, required as the traditional red leather is hard to distinguish under the glare of the floodlights introduced for the new playing schedule which ensures bad light will never stop play – an age old problem of cricket in England’s temperamental summer weather. 

You can sense the power of positivity in the words they’ve chosen and the key messages around excitement, innovation and opportunity whilst retaining and building on the link with tradition:

“Bringing day/night Test cricket to England is an innovative and very exciting development for the game, and we’re thrilled that Edgbaston will be the first venue to host a match played in this format.”

“We will be working very closely with our delivery partners and key stakeholders on our planning and operations to ensure that this first ever day/night Investec Test Match is a huge success.”

Neil Snowball, Chief Executive of Warwickshire County Cricket Club

“It’s a great opportunity to attract more fans to the game and see how staging Test cricket in the afternoon and evening fits with working patterns and modern lifestyles, whilst maintaining the deep tradition of Test match cricket.”

“We think it can help attract different fans and families to Test cricket and the innovation will certainly put the five-day game under the spotlight. Our partners can also see the clear opportunity and have been supportive as we build towards this big occasion.”

ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison

Interestingly, more than 98% of tickets sold out and a few weeks before the match, more than 40% of tickets had been purchased by first-time buyers, suggesting the idea of work-friendly hours had won over a new legion of fans.

The fact that England went on to thrash their opponents can only have helped garner support for the new format, pink balls and all!

Tradition has its place in all walks of life, personal, sporting and business, but it counts for little if those in charge aren’t prepared to innovate and take bold, but well-considered, decisions.

Leaders need to demonstrate a variety of qualities to develop and deliver those decisions as there is often a danger they will not be well-received initially. Relevant skills include listening to those around them, engaging with peers and stakeholders, being brave, communicating their decisions positively with those tasked with implementing them, exhibiting and maintaining appropriate energy levels – in themselves and their teams – to secure the best chance of success, and providing direction for colleagues and, ultimately, their organisation. 

Yes, it’s a lot of ball juggling, but effective leaders do this very successfully and steer organisations through changes in direction or the introduction of necessary new business models to keep them at the top of their game.

If you’d like us to help your leaders develop further on their journey, then contact the iTS Leadership team today.

Author: Jayne George

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