9 Things the Cubs World Series Championship Can Teach Us About Building A Community Strategy



One thing I learned from my No Sports for a Year experiment is that I love learning from the strategic side of baseball and I love applying what I learn to other areas of my life.

So, lately, as the new 2017 season gets going, I was thinking more about how and why the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series and I’ve been inspired by the smart, strategic and careful planning they did to make it happen.

And when I think about the connection between the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series and building communities, I realized how those smart plans from the Cubs winning strategy share many of the same elements to building a successful community strategy.

So as I reflect, here’s a list of connections I’ve begun to make between the Cubs historic championship season and what it takes to build a successful and strategic online community for organizations.  Whether you’re building a community to collaborate and engage with employees or build deeper relationships with customers, I hope you can use these insights to help you create a better community experiences and strategy. 

1. You Must Have a Community Vision and Stick To It

What happened to the Cubs in 2016 wasn’t just happenstance. It was carefully planned out and orchestrated ever since the Cubs began to rebuild circa 2012. It was a vision manifested. Yes, baseball is just a game but it’s also a business that involves complex negotiations and strategic thinking both on the field and in the front office. Yes, much of the game of baseball is unpredictable, but organizations make hundreds of calculated decisions that set a team up to have the opportunity to be in a position to win.

Same goes for building a successful and valuable community. You must know why you are building community and have a vision of the value you want to create for the members.The beauty of a having a solid and well thought out community strategy is that you can create a specific environment and experience for that value and magic to happen in. Your community vision is part of what creates the opportunity for to do what you want members to do.

Having a vision is critical in both situations. When building communities, visions can be simple and grow organically but you should have at least some type of purpose and idea of why you’re starting the community and what value you want it to give back to the organization and its core audience.

2. Welcome New Members Like The Cubs Welcomed Rookies

When I read this MLB.com article about how the Cubs veterans welcomed the rookies, brought new team members into the team culture and how those actions built a strong team culture and chemistry, I loved it because it highlighted an important part of building a successful community: welcoming new members and guiding them to helpful and meaningful experiences and conversations.

In the article, they talked about how the veterans intentionally took time to teach the rookies, befriend them and introduce them to team rituals and veteran experiences. I also enjoyed how all the off-the-field relationship building helps makes the rookies feel comfortable, so ultimately, they are relaxed and can play at their best on the field knowing their teammates have their back and support them on and off the field.

Same goes for community strategy. Whether you’re just launching a new community or several years in, you should always have a member onboarding and welcome strategy. Welcoming new members and developing your member journey is vital to the initial and long-term growth of your community.

You should ask: What do you exactly want members to do and experience within the first 30 to 90 days in your community? Strategically designing this journey from start to finish is what drives, guides and inspires new members to get value right from day one and it’s also what plants the seeds of advocacy so members can become empowered advocates and champions for your community.

A well thought out welcoming strategy and a clearly defined and developed member path should be a top priority in a community strategy, but often what happens is that this critical part of success often goes overlooked or falls to the bottom of the list as a community begins to grow. Don’t let this happen to you.

Most organisations just think that people will figure out how to find things in the community and rely to much on serendipity. It;s a mistake that adoption will happen organically.  It just isn’t true. The most successful communities are the results of strategically planning out the member experience so it leads the members down an intentional path of value and meaningful moments that keep them coming back and invite them into the purpose of the community. Take the time to be strategic and map out our member’s journey. 

3. Focus on What’s Important For Your Community and Block Out the BS

There was a lot of high-expectations and constant distractions throughout the Cubs historic 2016 season.  Late night talk shows appearances, commercials spots, media pressures. But it never seemed to take away from the ultimate goal and mission. The Cubs seemed to be able to remain present and take things one game, one pitch and one play at a time and stay focused on the ultimate goal: Win the World Series.

Same goes for your community strategic priorities. Know what you want to do and don’t get distracted. I admit that it’s easy to get sidetracked with all the noise, moderation, resource setbacks and other myriad distractions that get thrown at you as you try to build and grow your community, but take time to lay out your community goals and hold fast to them. Write down what projects are most important to growth.

Be clear about what projects and daily actions are going to add the most value to achieving eventual success. Be consistent and relentless about sticking to that list and it will show to the rest of the organization that you mean business with your community.

The value of community is still not obvious or assumed in most organisation and staying focused on your strategy is important in making sure your demonstrate and communicate the value to all stakeholders. Demonstrating to the organization that you are focused on achieving your community’s business goals is key and it should be a top priority for you. 


4. Learn From Failure…It Was The Cubs Winning Secret

This was probably one of the most overlooked, albeit most important reasons why the Cubs won the World Series. They lost 64 times during the 2016 season and I always felt like they made the most of each loss. Understanding that losing is a part of the baseball season and accepting it is big part of winning.

And the Cubs always seemed to use defeat to their advantage by learning their opponents styles and weakness so when the next opportunity to win came around they were ready. Essentially, they won even when they lost because they learned from what didn’t work and saw each moment as a chance to learn and experiment and then make adjustments.

Sames goes for building community. You’re going to fail. If you don’t fail, you’re likely playing it way too safe and not growing or getting the value you should be getting. So expect to fail and when you fail, learn from it. Take detailed notes and use what you learn to build a stronger community strategy.

Work out loud about your failures so you and others can learn together. Heck, you could even take it step further and see losing as a way to build stronger emotional relationships with your community. As a Cubs fan growing up, the Cubs were known as the “lovable losers” and it was following the team through thick and thin that built stronger relationships and when they finally won it all, it made the win that much sweeter.

If you approach it in the right way, losing has a way of giving you a chance to be vulnerable and connect on a deeper level with others in your community. When you fail together as a community find ways to make it meaningful and make it something that brings your community together instead of something that rips it apart and creates chasms. Use failure as a catalyst to improve and discover more ways to win and as a way to build bridges.


5. Building a Championship Team, and a Community, Takes Time

Winning teams don’t happen overnight. If you want to build a lasting legacy, there are no shortcuts. It takes time. The Cubs didn’t win for many, many years. 108 to be exact. And the 2016 World Series team began building in 2012.  Also, the baseball season is long, long journey. You don’t sprint over 162 games. You pace yourself and as Maddon says, “you should look to start another one game winning streak each day.”  

Same goes for community. Building a valuable community takes time to evolve and grow.  The most successful communities start small and build gradually over time. For example, in my last community building project the journey to build community and collaboration at Walgreens took 5 years and not until about year 2-3 did it finally take root. So, don’t rush it. Be patient. If you want to win and build something meaningful, know that it’s a long journey but it’s totally worth it. 

6. Build Winning Behaviors Through Shared Values, Meanings and Rituals

In order to have lasting meaning and create successful winning behaviors, there has to be special rituals that the team or fans do together and you have to do them regularly. Creating rituals that leverage the power of psychology and how our brains and bodies work is a must. Look at what the Cubs do after every win at home, Wrigley Field erupts into a frenzy singing “Go Cubs Go.” This is an important part of being a Cubs fan and it’s one of the things that unites and builds community among Cubs fans. It may seem strange to other fans but it’s a key ritual that breeds success.

That said, during the 2016 season, after listening to Joe Maddon talk about how he encourages celebrations and dance parties after each win made me ask the question “Was there too much celebration, too much partying with out having won the whole thing?” But then I realized how important those celebratory daily rituals are to success. I began to appreciate the powerful impact of building behaviors that build a strong and winning culture.

Same goes for community. Celebrating your wins daily, weekly, monthly and yearly because it’s socially and psychologically important to building a winning culture.  Celebrate with your community and celebrate wins with your community team. 

Your community strategy should include some type of ritual that the community experiences together. It can be a live event, weekly member recognition or celebrating wins together each year. Whatever it is, you must make ritual building a central part of your strategy to create a powerful shared emotional experience within your community. You can’t have a valuable and long-lasting community without it.

7. Cultivating Relationships Is Critical to Success

Like I mentioned above with welcoming members and making rookies feel supported was a key ingredient for success. There’s no denying that the Cubs secret was the relationship building. The Cubs winning culture came from the strong relationships that the players built together. And for decades the Cubs organization has built such a strong emotional, relational bond with it’s fans that we’ve stuck with the team 108 years until we finally won it all.

The same goes for building a community. Yes, a goal for your community should be to use it to ultimately build better relationships with customers and employees. But for the ultimate goal to be realized your must focus on a small core of key relationships that will impact the broader relationship with the community. Rewarding top contributors and influencers is critical to the success of your community strategy.

You can build those relationships by giving your MVPs special access to future content before you share it with the broader community. Give your customer champions access to product development and top people within your organization. You can collaborate with top contributors and include them in the creation of future community strategy.  

You should also focus on building relationships within your organization with stakeholders especially in the key departments such as HR, Communications, Legal, IT and Marketing Relationship building should be where you spend much of your time. Treat relationship building like gold. Be intentional about building relationships and don’t spend to much time in the actual online community. Get off line and spend value face time with the people who are going to help you grow your strategy. 

8. Avoid Perfection and Have a Growth Mindset

One of my favorite highlights of the 2016 season was watching and listening to the Cubs bounce up and down in post-game huddle saying “We never quit!”  This rang true right up until the final moments of Game 7.  Doubt hung over the team, but Jason Heyward and David Ross stood up at key moments in the final games and reminded the others that they were capable of winning and should not give up now.

And I believe this “never quit” attitude came from the Maddon’s approach to not seek perfection but focus on the moment and pursue a growth mindset. And after every game I always heard Joe Maddon talk about how the team was young and that the goal was to stay present, “have a process not an outcomes” mindset. He talked often in post-game interviews about experimenting constantly and grow daily.

Same goes for community. It takes time to build a successful community and you should always have a desire to continually test and experiment. Whether you’re just launching a community or a couple years in, there’s always room to grow. Trying to get your community perfect is a loss cause and in some case will limit its potential. Failure is a great asset and learning from what didn’t work will help you make a better community over time. 

That said, don’t plan to far ahead and don’t make your strategy so rigid that it can’t bend and flex with all the changes that are going to come your way.  I’ve found it valuable to road map in 2-3 years and 3-6 months time frames so I have both the short and long-term in mind.

Community management is still very new and when it comes to business integration we’re just getting started and learning about how it all works and should work. So be open to change and experimentation. And always be looking for new opportunities to more fully integrate your community into your business.


9. Believe in Your Vision, Take Risks and Expect to Make Unpopular Decisions

Joe Maddon always defied convention. He took risks but he always believed in his vision. This is probably what I both most respect and struggle with about Joe Maddon. On one hand I loved his approach to management it was exciting to watch unfold during the season. But at the same time it caused me so much anxiety as a Cubs fan watching as he made unorthodox moves with the bull pen, aka Aroldis Chapman in Game 7. But it was this very core behavior of Maddon that makes him such an indispensable and legendary manager. 

Same goes for your community strategy. Once you have your vision you should be relentless about following it even in the face of adversity and doubt. You can pretty much assume that most of what you do initially with community will make stakeholders and other throughout the organization uncomfortable at first. This is because integrating community into the flow of business is a new thing for most organizations. So don’t always expect everyone to support or agree with you. Expect push back along the way.

But, like I mentioned above, be sure to build strong relationships with your early supporters and champions because these people will help you carry out your vision and champion it for you to their audience. And this is the only way the community will grow and become valuable to the organization. But don’t expect to always be in agreement. There will be time when you must do what other don’t understand in order to grow.

When it comes to challenging myself with my own community vision, I always think about what I’m building and ask myself “Does the strategy follow the rules or does it challenge conventional thinking and explore new territory both within the company and within the overall practice of community management? Am I using the community to change company culture and the customer experience, or am I just playing it safe and simply using community to mirror silos and traditional corporate culture? Am I doing things that other community strategists haven’t done or am I sticking only to what I’ve read and not taking risks to explore new experiences?

And I’m sure that Joe Maddon and the 2016 Cubs did the same things and asked many of the same questions as they challenged convention, took risks and learned a ton on their way to making history. And I hope the same for your community strategies. I hope they revolutionize your company culture and transform your customer experiences in ways your organizations have seen before.


I hope you enjoyed this exploration! Thanks for following along and I’d love to know what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Remembering The Beatles, Ballparks and Rosenblatt The Concert Venue

beatles ballpark tour infographic



The baseball season is almost underway and we’d like to celebrate by sharing this slick infographic that shows how closely related baseball is to live music and how The Beatles used ballparks to make their rounds in the U.S. in the 60’s.

As a Cubs fan, I will point out a couple things that struck me. It’s quite insightful to note how the impact of the Beatles on the teams in whose ballpark they played.

For example, it was interesting to see that when the Sox were one of only three team that lost their next home game after the Beatles played at Comiskey.  And the Cubs won their game against the hometown Giants in 1966. Hmmmm…?

Remembering Rosenblatt: Concert Venue

The other thing I’d like to add to this baseball park exploration is a cool story I discovered while chatting with a fellow concert fan Paul in Dallas.

During our chat Paul told me about his excellent website Remembering Roseblatt and how the venue was a popular spot for touring bands back in the 70’s and 80’s.  I loved reading Paul’s account of his first memories of seeing the Beach Boys and The Police, and here’s a snippet from his Remembering Rosenblattpost about beach balls and port-a-poties:

The Beach Boys
Finally, my shot came one summer in the early 80s. The Beach Boys were coming to Rosenblatt and my brother, nine years my senior, offered to take me along with his friends. I would have been twelve or thirteen at the time. I remember many things about that first concert experience and few of them had to do with the music. In particular, this was my first exposure to people openly consuming large amounts of alcohol and it was my first time ever smelling marijuana. I remember thinking how all of it made people just a little bit crazy.

For big concerts like this that weren’t affiliated with a baseball game, they would set the stage up on the warning track along the wall in right-centerfield. Concert goers would spread blankets out all over the outfield turf and party it up for an hour or two in anticipation of the show starting.

I’m not sure who thinks to bring beach balls to Rosenblatt events, but it seems there were always plenty on hand even back in the 80s. Waiting for your turn to volley the rainbow colored sphere is a great way to keep your mind off the anticipation of the opening number…

So thinking of Paul’s story, the impact of the Beatles on ballparks and the history of another shuttered sports stadium/concert venue, I’d like to know what the impact has been or will be of Dave Matthews, Roger Waters, Paul McCartney and the other bands that have played Wrigley in the past couple of years.

How are other concert fans experiencing live music at other historic ballparks? Have the Cubs (or other teams) won or lost more after these artists have played there?

While you’re thinking about the answer to those questions, check out our Live Fix Radio episode that highlights the Beatles Chicago tour stop in 1965.

Special thanks to Paul for sharing his story and to Flipflopflying.com for the rad infographic.


beatles ballpark tour infographic

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Freaky Friday Treats: Live Concert Downloads, Moogfest 2010, Sound Opinions, World Series Playlist…


Boo! I hope I didn’t scare you.

Anyways, it’s Friday and that means it’s also Halloween weekend. So here’s a quick post full of sweet treats (minus the tricks.) So let’s dig into these free live concert downloads featuring Moogfest, a World Series Playlist and a spooky Sound Opinions. Continue reading

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Eminem and Jay-Z Not Afraid To Rock Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park


Ever since I posted about the Little Things and baseball, I’ve noticed just how connected live music is to the best game in the whole world. And since it’s that time of year, there’s a seasonal buzz going around about blending the two, with the most recent being a double concert this fall between Jay-Z and Eminem.
Continue reading

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Bon Iver’s Tattoo Reveals The Power of The Little Things

Ink on the Back of Bon Iver

Ink on the Back of Vernon

Having played baseball since I was old enough to hold a bat and toss a ball, there’s one thing that the game’s taught me about live music; it’s that noticing and appreciating the “little things” makes all the difference.

And when you notice the hidden nuances about your surroundings during the show, you also begin to discover what separates an average show from a great show and why certain shows have stronger subtexts and significance than others.

In the case of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, it was his “that was then” tattoo on the back of his neck that added meaning and helped me understand what made his performance at Pitchfork Music Festival last summer one of my favorite in 2008.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I began to discover this.

When my wife Colleen showed me this picture she took of the back of Vernon’s neck,  it was then that I began to connect the story of the subtext of that tattoo with what I experienced during the show, a connection that I didn’t initially see during his set at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Ever since Colleen showed me this picture I’ve been on the lookout for other little details about that show and others shows I’ve been to.  I’ve been looking for the little things that make some concerts more memorable that others.  Because when I saw that tattoo I wondered “What did it mean? Why did he have it on the back of his neck?” Was it inspirational to his music?  Did it mark a transition in his songwriting or personal journey?”

I continue to wonder about that tattoo and the other “little things”  I’ve noticed at concerts. Because I’ve begun to realize that they have an immense power to quietly influence the show and send the emotional fervor flowing strong and furious from the artist’s heart to our hearts unsuspectingly–during or even months after a show.

What “little things” have you noticed about  a show?  What did they reveal to you that you didn’t noticed before?  Was it a tattoo? A piece of jewelry?  A comment the artist said in between songs?

Update: Jade, a gracious Live Fix reader, reminded me to note that Bon Iver is the band/stage name of Justin Vernon.

Download and Rock On

Pick up Bon Iver’s 2009 debut For Emma, Forever Ago and their latest 2011 album Bon Iver via iTunes.

You can also listen to the albums on MOG via their 14-day free trial. And if you’re new to MOG, you can see why we can’t get enough of the highly addictive music subscription service in our review.

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NPR Considers Baseball's Live Pitch


Hey, here’s something to think about as the concert season begins to move inside to the clubs and the baseball season heads into its last month with a few pennant races heating up(and I’m glad I have live music to numb the pain should the Cubs choke in the home stretch).

But what I want to ask you is…did live music borrow from baseball broadcasting?

This question came to mind when I was listening to NPR live concert series.

As host Bob Boilen intro’s the shows—describing what’s going on onstage or the vibe in the venue—he does so with a style that reminds me of how baseball play-by-play announcers call a game.

So there I was, caught with a double dose of pleasure and I wasn’t even at the show!

Experiencing two favorites—baseball and live music—intersecting simultaneously I got jazzed, so I looked a little deeper into how this intersection impacts live music, specifically when we’re not there to see or hear it in person and have to rely on a commentator like Boilen to paint the picture for us.

But before we get to Boilen’s style of calling a NPR live show, let’s back up a bit first, and start with baseball’s broadcasting groundwork.

Baseball got its broadcasting start on radio in 1921 and it was on the strength of the announcers that fans listened with rapt attention as the leather popped and the ball clicked against the bat as announcers gave eyes to what the fans were hearing over the radio waves thousands of miles away.

And the dialogue between the color and the play by play announcers was awesome. Guys like Vin Sully and Mel Allen and others, would tell mix in status and clubhouse anecdotes and jokes, while the game carried on and the game unfolded with each wind-up and pitch.

But most of all, I loved how those announcers painted the picture of what the game sounded like. Their words and emotional inflexions gave the game that added intensity you couldn’t get if you weren’t there. Using phrases, like “the wind and the pitch” or describing how a team was carrying a player off the field on their shoulders after a walk off homerun as the crowd roared in the background.

Through the speakers of the radio came the game. A sort of storytelling audio High Definition.

And it was, and still is, the play-by-play commentator’s job to define how the game sounds on your ears and what images are created in your mind.
And when I realized that music broadcasting came first circa 1906 but was fully functional and commercial in 1920 with baseball following suit in 1921, had to back track on my initial thoughts of Boilen borrowing.

It wasn’t a case of Boilen borrowing from baseball but it was the other way around, in fact.

But in any case was radio announcers—sports or music—have such a huge impact on how we perceive the game or live show.

And I ever since I’ve been wondering if Boilen was applying a similar style to live music because calling a live concert like a baseball game does have a impact on us as listeners. From how the music is prefaced to how he wraps up the show at the end, it all is crucial to how absorb the moment as it unfolds.

The only real difference is that the concert goes on uninterrupted without any commentary during the show while the baseball announcer is there on every pitch telling us what’s happening.

Is seems like a small difference but I wonder what it would be like if Boilen was to interject at every chord change or in between songs. Would this annoy us? Possibly.

But if you think about how crucial his intro and wrap up are to the show then thinking about what some sort of actual concert play-by-play would be like makes you wonder if we would hate it or love it once we got use to it.

And whether it’s the Raconteurs or Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized or Black Mountain, Boilen takes the liberty to tell the listener what’s going on onstage, from the stage set up to the mannerisms and body language of the band members, mirror the method of baseball play-by-play announcers describing a wind-up and the pitch….

Would the concerts be as enjoyable if Boilen didn’t do any calling at all and the concert just started with the band playing? How would the listening experience be if it was just the amp hum, the crowd roar and then the music?

Do we depend on guys like Boilen to paint the picture for us at the venue just as much as we do when a play-by-play announcers go through a dramatic homerun call?

The things I like about how Boilen begins the show is how he does paint the scene; he also ends the show with a dramatic outpouring and likeable euphoric flowing, a rush of expression that is sometimes a few words or a steady stream that always illustrates how he’s feeling in the wake of the show, as the crowd claps and roars in the background.

It’s always interesting to see how live sports intersect with live music, learning how one has influenced the other over the years.

And it’s even more interesting when this intersection somehow creates a new aesthetic for enjoying live music.

And in NPR’s case, it works as an effective way to include all the fans–in the venue or listening at home, or weeks later on a podcast—together in one communal live music experience.

And looking at this from a five senses perspective, it really makes you think about which sense is most important to enjoying a live show.

Sight or Sound?

In this case—and I think Mr. Boilen would agree—that our eyes are just as, if not more important than our ears.

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