This issue of DesignIntelligence is primarily about the facts and trends in baseball park design. But between the lines here is a story about professional ascendancy.

Whether your professional practice is in baseball architecture or school design, there are compelling reasons to challenge traditional design processes and move toward a state of continuous improvement. The culture of a firm that is making continuing improvements is not common. There is often a gravitational pull, one without conviction or commitment to break free toward a new ascendancy. Some firms languish in the middle to bottom of the profession’s ranks. We see this in the client’s rankings of firms in designer selection process. Even though principals say they prefer the ascendant condition, their actions belie their words. The reality is that some firms are not as relevant as others in this game of building and space.

Baseball can be a metaphor as we think about how to improve the conditions. Some firms win more and lose less for reasons not unlike ball teams. Clients (as do fans) see this quite clearly and talk about it often. And yet some practices are not able to move forward into a state of new relevancy—they have no pitching, to continue the analogy. They are stuck in a slump.

Professional organizations should constantly search for new ways to create value and be on the lookout for “win” opportunities. This includes pounding the pavement, asking deeper questions, and seeing anew from the client’s perspective. Complacency should have no place your firm’s value system. Status quo is a bottom-line disaster. Just as no baseball fan likes to have a losing home team, no client is interested in ho-hum services either.

How do you get the energy to break free of the all too common gravitational pull of complacency? First, developing that passion is mandatory, and it is not easy. If it were, more firms would be doing it. To quote Tom Hanks on baseball from “A League of Their Own”—“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

The firms that have a sense of excitement about change seem to understand the need for a kind of energetic zeal and passion about the future. Second, this passion leads to communication that gets new interviews, new clients, and then keeps clients for life. It is passion that separates the superstars from the average firms.

This issue of DesignIntelligence is primarily about the facts and trends in baseball park design. But between the lines here is a story about professional ascendancy. Stars are not just on the baseball field. Nor are they only the winners of the Pritzker Prize. Real teams, a baseball manager’s holy grail, can be stars. This is where value lives and where clients are cheering firms and teams toward new ascendant conditions.
—James P. Cramer