'Million Dollar Arm's' J.B. Bernstein At MES: 'People Buy Into The Visionary Before They Buy Into The Vision'

Technology conferences are often rife with sports analogies, but can those analogies come from a sports agent?

Well, maybe they can if the agent is J.B. Bernstein, who's gotten the Hollywood treatment thanks to his quest to find baseball players in India -- the basis for the Disney film "Million Dollar Arm."

Bernstein Monday shared a universal message about creativity, perseverance and unlikely success that parallel the challenges faced by IT professionals at the Midsize Enterprise Summit West, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company, in Los Angeles. His insights did indeed resonate with IT pros attending the conference.

[Related: Veteran CIO To MES West Attendees: 'If You're A Pure IT Person, You're A Dinosaur']

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There are basic precepts for being successful, according to Bernstein, who said he's learned as someone who's worked with athletes, owners and executives from corporate sponsors.

One is creativity, specifically the ability to evolve with the times.

"The market, especially your market, is changing so quickly," Bernstein told attendees. It's important to know how to circumnavigate obstacles and constantly understand where the market is.

Bernstein's story started with a crazy idea, one that followed a disillusioning event in his career through which he realized his competitors were bending the rules in a way he would never be comfortable doing.

That experience with an NFL prospect, a meditation on Chinese basketball star Yao Ming- -- and the $2 billion in revenue attributed to him -- and a couple of Indian cricket matches he caught on TV were the seeds of inspiration.

Bernstein decided he would discover and introduce to America a groundbreaking sports star from a country with a massive population that could monetize that athlete's success. Why not an Indian pitcher?

Not surprisingly, others didn't share his vision. Most people, including his mother, told him it was the worst idea ever.

But rejection wasn't going to deter him.

"People buy into the visionary before they buy into the vision," Bernstein said. "Your boss might not get it, but he sees your passion, and that might sway him."

After all, "'no' is the beginning of the negotiation," he told attendees.

And that's the sports agent metaphor that translates quite aptly to IT -- business leaders, customers, even colleagues often just don't see the vision, especially when it is predicated on the impact of technology they don't understand.

Scott Jeggle, a regional sales manager with SimpliVity, told CRN he fights that battle constantly.

"I'm selling hyper-converged infrastructure, so I wake up every day and I fight legacy. I fight 'how did we do it last time because it's tried and true and it's proven'," Jeggle said.

To combat complacency and resistance to new ideas, Jeggle, like Bernstein, must figure out how to creatively get potential customers to see his vision for their IT infrastructure, and how a new approach to technology is going to positively impact their business, he told CRN.

Bernstein presented his Indian baseball contest idea to 15 Major League Baseball owners, finally finding a receptive ear with minority San Francisco Giants owner Will Chang.

The vision, passion and perseverance brought him to India, where he conducted the "Million Dollar Arm" reality television show to identify talent. Bernstein ultimately returned home with two teenagers from the Indian countryside, Rinku and Dinesh, in tow.

After some major culture shock -- the kind that is disarmingly charming in a Disney movie -- and a good deal of struggle on the field learning a game they had never seen or played before, both young men found success in the minor leagues. And both their lives were drastically changed, as was Bernstein's.

"You guys faced a lot of the same things I was facing," Bernstein told the MES West attendees. "You know the answer, and the answer is not something a lot of people understand."

IT directors have the tough job of getting business leaders and buyers to understand what they can accomplish with technology. But to succeed in that pursuit, they need to abandon tech jargon and talk about business concepts, like growth, winning market share and return on investment.

"Talk about things they understand and ultimately you'll be able to bring them along much faster," Bernstein advised attendees.

Jeggle, from SimpliVity, took the lesson to heart.

"The thing that [Bernstein] said about coming up with big ideas and being creative and how you approach customers, when somebody says no, it's just an opportunity to negotiate, he's right," Jeggle said. "When they say no, you just haven't struck a chord with them yet."