Articulation Tuesday: Leveraging Narrative

This week I was planning to talk about the “vocabulary” component of our definition of Articulation. But I got sidetracked by Joe Maddon.

Maddon, the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, is providing an almost daily tutorial on how to apply narrative as a key lever in the activation, acceleration and optimization of intentions.

He showed up at spring training this season with, of all things, a slogan: “Respect 90.” The numeral refers to the distance, in feet, between home plate and first base, as well as from base to base around the infield. Every baseball manager and coach at every level of the game exhorts their players to run hard all the way to first base every time. Maddon is asking for the same thing, only couching it in terms of showing respect for every foot of that distance. With his twist in phrasing, he’s making it be about a player’s respect for the game itself, not his willingness to expend a little effort. And with that, he’s got himself a narrative. Better still, he’s working it…

Activation: When players arrive at spring training, they find the slogan stenciled in large letters along the 90 feet between home plate and first base. Then anyone following Maddon on Twitter discovers he’s changed his profile to read, simply, “Respect 90,” with no further explanation. Check it out.

Acceleration: With cameras rolling and a live microphone at his disposal, Maddon declares his intention to have a team that plays the game right, and the narrative behind it. The video appears on multiple online outlets – my favorite being mlb.com.

Optimization: When spring training games get under way, he uses the slogan as his go-to accolade:

Two weeks into the regular season, when the team’s top prospect is called up from the minor leagues, and a reporter asks Maddon what he told the player before his first game, he says, “I just told him to be himself, have some fun, and respect 90.”

But you know what they say: anybody can leverage a narrative when the season’s young; check back in the dog days of August. If the Cubs are still respecting 90 come Labor Day, Maddon may be in line for Articulator of the Year.