Branch Rickey & Organizational Innovation

In this insight from our partners at the ILO institute, we’re talking baseball—specifically, we’re looking at Brooklyn Dodger GM Branch Rickey’s two innovations that changed the game for the better. Not only did he hire the legendary Jackie Robinson—the first Black player in the modern MLB—Rickey also built the farm team system. Read on to discover the value that Rickey’s mindset can bring to your innovation projects.

U+, in partnership with the ILO Institute, is excited to bring you highlights from ILO’s Weekly Virtual Gatherings. This week, we’d like to share this insight on Major League Baseball GM Branch Rickey and his innovative hiring and organizational practices.

We seldom talk about one of the great pioneers of innovation and it's worth giving him a little more attention. We're thinking of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, rightly celebrated for breaking the color line in baseball by hiring and supporting Jackie Robinson.

Rickey was also a great practitioner of what we would call organizational innovation. His greatest contribution to the structure of professional baseball was to create the farm team system.

Instead of a single major-league team with 25-50 players, this allowed him to employ hundreds, at relatively low salaries, and scan the group for unexpected talent.

That's the principle of lowering the cost of failure, along with the principle of having a much larger number of smaller, faster experiments rather than planning too much and having only a few, higher-cost, slower experiments. Rickey understood that discovery trumped prediction, and he set the stage for great things to follow.

Even the risk of bringing the first African-American player into the modern major leagues began with a stint on a farm team. Ricky understood that if the racists in Toledo or Montreal didn't burn down the stadium when Robinson began playing—and winning—he'd established a likelihood that Brooklyn would be able to deal with it as well.

The U+ method can efficiently and effectively lead the development, implementation, and improvement of innovations in any sector. To date, we have used this method to bring 90+ products to market, creating over $1 billion in value for Fortune 1000 companies. Check out U+ success stories here.

Get 20 minutes with Sean, the Managing Partner of U+ Americas, to learn more about how U+ can help your company innovate successfully.

Launched in 2005, ILO is a membership organization for large companies, government agencies and not-for-profits, bringing senior executives leading innovation together for knowledge sharing and community building. ILO has completed more than 300 best-practice research reports, focusing on emerging challenges and opportunities. To learn more about ILO, membership benefits, and how to join, visit

Check back next week as we’ll be releasing new insights from weekly events with leading innovators from across the globe.

Let's talk about Branch Rickey & Organizational Innovation