Being a sports fanatic is out of character for me. Sure I watch my alma mater teams play college football and basketball (go Mountaineers and Boilermakers!!!). And I root for the Colts and the Steelers, in that order, based on where I’ve lived.
But to follow a team, share stories about them with anyone that will listen, and be a bit obsessive about following a team is very much outside my norm.
That is until I attended a Savannah Bananas game at Grayson Stadium in June 2022. That changed it all.
I’ve read all the books the owner, Jesse Cole, has written. I watch their games on YouTube. I share (too much I fear) all the reasons they enchant me with whoever will listen.
To me, the Bananas are one of the most significant living examples of positive business disruption and human-centered innovation around.
For my true passions are people and business, not baseball and sports. And the Bananas are leading the field on both.
As I study the Bananas’ way of doing business, here are just a few of my business takeaways:
Have the Courage to Disrupt
The Bananas love baseball but have dared to cast aside those elements of the game that were stale. With them, baseball has gone from slow and boring to fast and fun. This team shows me that disruptive innovation can come from within the industry (albeit on the fringes) and happens when you are willing to change the rules. Here is an upstart summer college league team in a smaller city drawing more fans than established major league teams.
Make Innovation the Norm and Innovate Continuously
Most businesses, my own included, see innovation as an “event” or “something that you only consider when things begin to fall apart.” Not so the Bananas. Innovation is in their cultural DNA. Every day, every game, every fan interaction is a chance to innovate and improve. Failing is part of the process and is celebrated.
Be it fans or employees, or players, this team seeks out (and finds) ways to lift people up. Everyday people. All kinds of people. In ways that are memorable and touching, get at the core of our shared humanity, and in a fun without making “fun of” way.
I have been to a total of ONE game and have no less than twenty stories I can tell about that experience. Not only do I have them, I actually tell them. To family, to friends, to colleagues, to clients. This team is a master at creating (and encouraging) people to share stories about their Savannah Banana experience. And it is in stories that make this team one that sells out games and has a waiting list of thousands, even in cities they don’t regularly play in.
By any measure, the Bananas are a business success. This team sells out every game. They sell millions of dollars of merchandise all over the world, been featured in Fast Company and other respected business journals and are a winning baseball team. They are an employer of choice, with applications from over 1200 people who want to work with them.
Every business owner I know would love to have customers telling positive stories about their experience, have a waiting list of people who want to buy from you, and an overflowing inbox of potential employees who are excited about joining your team.
And here is perhaps the punch line for me: their business success is not because of their laser focus on the bottom line; but due to their obsessive focus on the game, their fans, and creating an environment where all are empowered.
And so, that is why I follow the Bananas, study the Bananas, and learn from the Bananas. And, more importantly, incorporate the business lessons I learn into my business.
Based on my experience and study of the Bananas way of doing business, I continually ask myself these questions:
- What parts of my business/industry are stale, outdated, or ineffective?
- What do we need to stop doing?
- What more can I do to create an exceptional client experience?
- How can I increasingly add more value with the services I provide?
- How can I surprise and delight?
- Where are the pain or friction points in doing business with us? What can I do to eliminate them or, at a minimum, minimize them?
- What small innovations can I test today?
- How do I overcome my (irrational) fear of trying something new?
- How might I empower those that work with me to be their absolute best?
- What am I doing that gets in the way of others bringing their best?
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About the Author: Kris Taylor
Fueled by their shared passion for people-centric organizations that achieve business results, Kris Taylor joined Joe Indiano to found Apeiron, where professionals join together in an abundant, entrepreneurial community to grow sustainable businesses by collaborating together. Bringing together highly skilled consultants across functions, Apeiron is creating the “workplace of the future”, where talented professionals come together to service clients with an agile, collaborative approach to tough business problems.
Kris is also the founder of Evergreen Leadership in 2004 and has worked with over 80 companies across the US to develop customized leadership development programs focused on 21st-century skills. Evergreen Leadership is known for its high-impact retreats, coaching, and learning programs, specializing in fostering agility, collaboration, relationship building, accountability, creativity, and innovation.
Kris writes, speaks, teaches, and coaches leaders at all levels, from the C-suite to high-potential emerging leaders. She is committed to giving back in meaningful ways, most visibly with Evergreen’s Annual Community Builder Award. Since 2015, fifteen leaders across the mid-west have come together for the Connect and Create Retreat.
Her many years of work experience are rich in variety – beginning in education and non-profit for ten years before making a career change with RR Donnelley. In this Fortune 200 company, she fulfilled many roles from Human Resources to Operations to a corporate role in Learning and Development over fourteen years.
On the faculty of Purdue’s Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation for seven years, Kris developed and taught a course on consulting, as well as a course entitled Your Entrepreneurial Career. Kris is also the author of author of Owning It: Take Control of Your Life, Work and Career and The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times: a practical, easy-to-use