Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sparky Anderson

When I was growing up, Sparky Anderson was the manager of the Detroit Tigers.  I loved the Tigers and baseball (still do…Joaquin Benoit is my Tiger).

[For trippy 80’s Tigers flashback, click on this link: Bless You Boys!...yes, people actually used to dress like that.  For the record I was only three when this happened.]

Sparky was the central figure of the success of the mid-eighties Tigers, and especially their 1984 World Series win.  Sure, Lance Parrish (my fav), Jack Morris, Alan Trammel, Tommy Brookens, and Sweet Lou all played critical roles, but Sparky had to do something that none of them had to do.

In an ideal setup in team sports, the individual players only have to worry about one thing: their own performance.  Sparky had to worry about all of their performances.  It is the manager’s job to essentially do two things: inspire his players to play at their top level and craft a game-plan that effectively utilizes these top level performances.

If the manager is only successful at one or the other, the team will fail.  Sports history is replete with examples.

I liken my position with regards to technology tools, to the managerial role of a baseball team.

In class on Friday we learned the basics of at least six relatively new technology tools.  It is up to us to manage these, and the myriad of other tools out there.

First, we have to form our roster.  We have to decide which tools we need to get the job done.  We have to decide which ones we can expect top performances out of.  Just as importantly, we have to decide which ones we do not want on our team right now.

We might not need DropBox.  We might need Evernote.  We might send Google Reader to the minor leagues till we need him.

Next we have to decide how to best utilize our roster. 

Excel is my leadoff hitter.  I’m a former engineer.  That should be enough explanation. 

Batting second is PowerPoint.  Always reliable for making contact.  Batting third for me is Evernote.  I’ve used this tool for a while now and am discovering new ways to use it (thanks to Friday’s class).

Batting clean-up is my iPhone.  Greatest capability to knock it out of the park.

You get my point…

Maybe you don’t think of Excel and PowerPoint as tools?  Yep, they are.  Just like Diigo and Skype.  Only difference is we’ve been using them for longer, so we know how to use them better and are less intimidated by them. 

Believe you can get there with these new tools too.  You did it once, you can do it again.

The trick (not easy) is to think of them as tools.  Be Sparky.  That’s never bad advice.


  1. Love the metaphor. And the video. I'm just saying that someone in 504 once had a RECORD of "Bless You Boys." I'm just saying.

    1. At three-years-old I could quote you the starting lineup for the Tigers, most of their pitching staff, and sing the National Anthem word-for-word....which I often did before the Tiger's games. 1984....Van Halen, Madonna, and the Tigers.

  2. OMG. I love the baseball metaphor. I'm so impressed with your creative way of tying all of this tech stuff together. You hit it out of the park!

    And I appreciate the inclusion of the reliable old-timers. As an English teacher, I think a plain-old word-processing program is better for honing writing than programs like Pages, where I see kids getting distracted with design. But that should be it's own post.

    Mostly, I wanted to thank you for this great piece of writing. Very enjoyable. Aside from giving me a new way to think about technology, it brought back memories of listening to the '84 World Series while on a trip with my family in the car, on AM radio, no doubt.

    And I just might have to make myself a "Be Sparky" sign to keep by my workspace. That's all it would take to "spark" (pardon the pun) your message: "Believe you can get there with these new tools. You do it once, you can do it again."

    1. Glad you liked it! It is a little bit generalized....I didn't address some of the inherent questions with this kind of approach (I admit there are holes) but it is one part of a mindset in approaching technology that has been helpful for me. It is not the complete mindset....just part....not sure we ever get the "complete" correct way to look at something. We just have to play things till we find something that works....use it while it works...and discard it when it ceases to be of value (for inanimate objects).

  3. Such an awesome metaphor! I love the way you talked about the role of a manager and how he or she has to make sure everything is running smoothly and create a game plan to utilize everyone's strengths. If I were to follow this metaphor, my lineup would be 1. Evernote 2. Diigo 3. PowerPoint and my clean up hitter is my iPad because of all the apps it has on it. Thanks for thinking about this in a new way and helping me to make connections that I might not have made otherwise.