"From Left Field" a common idiom within the English lexicon worldwide. Like many other common sayings, it's origins are buried in a long history, often centuries old.

Although it is common knowledge that this phrase stems from baseball, few actually understand its literal meaning and context.  What is it about left field, that is so unexpected and random? Is it difficult to hit to? A more difficult place to field?


There are competing explanations for its origins: one idea is that in the 1880's, a mental hospital was located behind the Chicago Cubs home ground, and noises could be heard from the patients over the left field fence.  Another alternative, is that when a runner makes the charge from third base to home, he/she would not see a throw coming in from left field (over their shoulder) so it would be unexpected.

However, it remains an oddity, that 130 years later in Australia - a country which plays very little baseball, that this phrase maintains such ubiquity.  It is used every day, with no-one questioning its origins or relevance.

Business practices often parallel this scenario.  The status quo may have been established years ago for valid reasons, but reasons which are no longer justifiable.  Recently, I asked a national company why they had selected their current cleaning product supplier. Was it Price? Superior quality? Environmental safety?  No, it was because the suppliers warehouse was based nearby, so it was easy for staff to collect orders.  This may have made sense in 1985, but given that most chemical companies will now offer free next day delivery, choosing a supplier on the basis of proximity may not provide the best outcome.  Notwithstanding the redundant diversion of staff time to collect products.

At HACEN, we believe that existing practices must be continually reviewed and challenged.  As Winston Churchill once said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."