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Misdirection vs Deception. . .It’s Important To Know The Difference

August 27, 2015

There are two ways to throw a curveball for a strike. First, you can start the pitch outside the strikezone and let it break through the strikezone after the batter has given up on it. Any ball that passes over a portion of home plate that is also between the batters shoulders and knees, is a strike. Home plate is 17″ wide. A curveball can break 15″ from when it leaves the pitcher’s hand to when it reaches the catcher’s mitt. A changeup that is clearly WELL out of the strike zone, suddenly cuts in and catches a corner of the plate. The batter often simply stands there with the bat on his shoulder looking slightly foolish. 

To look truly foolish, the batter needs to face the second type of curveball for a strike. That’s when the pitcher throws the curveball for what looks like a strike and then at the last minute it breaks sharply away and the batter swings hard enough to screw himself into the ground. However, if the ball doesn’t break; if the pitcher got the mechanics slightly wrong, you are left with what’s called a hanging curveball. The batter is going to hit that ball a long, long way. 

A friend and I were discussing baseball movies. I told him that I hate when a baseball movie gets the baseball part wrong. I’m not a jerk about it. I’m willing to overlook Dennis Quaid using a radar sign designed for cars to test his fastball. I’ll even forgive Field of Dreams for turning Joe Jackson into a right handed hitter and including the catcher as a member of the Black Sox. 

But, when a movie gets it too wrong, it spoils it for me. Many years ago Disney did a movie called “Rookie Of The Year.” A kid breaks his arm and can now throw 120 mph fastballs. Okay, that’s a fun premise, but they go on to destroy it. Why? Because the ONLY pitch he can throw is a 120 mph fastball. No changeup, which looks like a fastball, but is much slower. No breaking pitches. Certainly not a curveball. 

Why is that so bad? Becuase in a baseball game, the pitcher (and the catcher) are playing a game of “guess what I’m thinking” with the opposing batter and manager. If a batter knows the pitch he’s going to get, he’s going to hit it most times. The reason a fastball works is that a changeup looks like the same pitch. So, the batter will spend the entire at bat trying to figure out what the catcher is going to call and the pitcher going to pitch. 

Like the curveball, deceptively breaking in for a strike after looking like it’s way outside, fastballs and changups rely on deception. It’s probably more accurate to describe misdirection. The batter thinks fastball and swings way to early. He’s thinking changeup and swings too late. He’s thinking way outside and the pitch breaks. 

I’m sure plenty of you are now saying, “Enough with the baseball pitches! What’s this got to do with business?” 

In business, deception is bad. Misdirection less so. In fact, like a well thrown curveball, misdirection can be a used to your advantage without compromising your integrity. I can hear you now, 

You’re just justifying lying to your customers!

And at first glance it looks like that. But, let’s face it; no one is totally honest. Or, I should say BRUTALLY honest. All software has bugs. Everyone knows that. But, software companies don’t lead with that piece of information. You don’t see a Microsoft advertisment saying,

Download Windows 10 for free! (BTW, it has bugs in it that we haven’t fixed yet.) 

We were launching a new Line of Businesses. It required a very specialized backup solution. We’d never used one before. My engineers weren’t even sure it would work. It cost over $20,000. We needed two of them to record everything. I decided we would buy one and install it for the launch and then if everything went smoothly we’d get the second one. 

There was just one problem. My client wanted us to have both when we launched. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him right? Contractually, we didn’t have to have two. But, the client wanted it. 

I was stuck. I didn’t want to order equipment that was going to have to be scrapped if it didn’t work. I also didn’t want to delay my launch. We needed the second system in case there was a problem with the first. If everything went smooth, we’d be fine.

It didn’t go smooth. 

Our fancy backup system broke. That shoudln’t have been a problem. . .if we had actually had two systems. My client wasn’t pleased.

So, when were you going to tell me that you only had one backup? 

When it became necessary. It just became necessary.

Did I lie? I certainly didn’t tell all I knew. The client understandably felt betrayed. I was trying for misdirection. 

Here’s the reason why. The client wouldn’t have let us launch with a single backup. But, contractually we didn’t have to. We didn’t even have to tell the client. Had the launch gone smoothly no one would have known. 

When a batter swings and misses at a curveball, he looks foolish. And even though he has no real reason to, he feels foolish. That’s what happened with our client. They felt foolish. I wasn’t feeling good either. I felt foolish. However, eventually the client realized that we could still launch within 24 hours. The launch was slightly delayed, but we quickly recovered. It took longer to rebuild my relationship with the client.

It is wrong to lie to your customers. That’s true. But, that doesn’t mean you have to announce your next pitch.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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