As a lifelong, diehard, long-suffering fan of the Chicago Cubs, I'm still trying to salvage something positive out of the disappointing recent playoff experience. Upon reflection, it occurred to me that there are a number of valuable lessons the banking industry could learn from studying the Cubs (not to mention baseball overall). In addition to the most obvious lesson-if you don't perform under pressure at a consistently high standard you will lose-there are several significant areas of potential focus:
Competition: As the Cubs learned, never underestimate the competition. Additionally, sometimes it's the less-prominent, up-and-coming organization-not the established behemoth-that presents the bigger threat. Finally, sometimes the biggest competitive factor is your own culture and history.
Customer Loyalty: It doesn't take all that much to create loyal customers. After all, the Cubs consistently sell out Wrigley Field, their beautiful old ballpark, even when the team is having a losing season. The team also gets high ratings when its games are televised nationally. History, environment and the occasional winning streak are enough to keep the fans coming back.
Branding: Thanks in large part to the reach of cable TV and the "super station" concept, as well as a mobile society where native Chicagoans are living anywhere from New York to London to Hawaii, the Cubs are known and followed all over the world. It would be nice if the name/brand immediately evoked images of success and winning, rather than sadness and losing, but it's a strong global brand just the same.
Workforce Development: OK, maybe the Cubs' farm system has never been good, and management has let more than a few eventual superstars go to the competition. But at least the current manager, Dusty Baker, understands that it takes more than money to motivate the staff (team). He's been known to personally deliver anything from sushi to pierogis to soul food to players-to feed their spirits as well as their bodies. Optimism, honesty and a sense of humor can be as effective in motivating people as threats or intense exhortations.
The history of the Cubs also illustrates that, sometimes you can do everything right-have the right staff, the right tools and resources, the right environment, the right strategy (on paper)-and things can still go wrong. Human error, bad weather, or an ancient curse can stymie the best gameplan, whether you manage a baseball team or a bank.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio