Business expressions are often borrowed (or maybe stolen) from sports.
In baseball, the curve ball is one of the hardest pitches to hit and hit accurately. The pitch itself is thrown with a hard spin of the ball, causing the ball to drop or veer suddenly when it approaches home plate, while also maintaining a high speed (unlike the standard changeup). Its purpose is to “throw” the batter off or come as a surprise when not expected, causing them to swing and miss. Some of the best and hardest hitters in the game can train their whole life to be a great ball player, but the curve ball can slow them down very quickly when not prepared [just ask Pedro Serrano in the movie, “Major League”].
In business [and life], we use the expression to mean something unexpected, difficult to deal with, an obstacle, or a problem, especially a problem not foreseen. We can be really good at what we have in front of us, our daily routines, our normal tasks [the fastballs in life]. But those curve balls are what can really change our perspective and force us to take a step back, re-analyze, re-evaluate. That curve ball can be any size [or speed], from a slight change in a project, a cancellation of an event, or a big as a job loss, or a pandemic that changes the entire focus of a business.
We can also learn from the legal field and negotiation methods, just like those successful baseball players who practice hitting any and every form of a curve ball that is possible. A lawyer getting ready for a trial prepares for any and every question the opposition may ask. In negotiations, one brainstorms (see brainstorming techniques in several of my blogs on the subject) a list of every adverse possibility to be ready.
Now, in baseball and in business, a curve ball is expected and is more commonly thrown. It’s also evolved, with multiple versions, speeds, and occurrences. It’s extremely important to study each player, person, and scenario to know who can throw that curve ball, and when. Today, the best hitters in baseball, and the best business professionals, have made their way to the top by not only being able to predict when a curve ball will be thrown, but also being prepared and ready to “hit it out of the park” and continue to be successful.
Just as the term comes from baseball, we can learn from the sport on how to be more prepared for a situation coming ‘out of left field’; again, a baseball term. If we can be more prepared and ready for when a curve ball is thrown our way, we will be more successful as a person, a professional, and a business.
This blogpost was jointly written by
Baseball and sports marketing expert Riley Wancket
Author, Speaker, Business Brain Booster,
Hazel Wagner, PhD, MBA, BBB