Lessons from Moneyball

I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in recent TBD Colorado meetings (tbdcolorado.org for those interested in complete details).

These community meetings, held throughout the state, wrap up with a regional summit in Denver today (June 23). They’ve challenged me to think about how Colorado can face various challenges in terms of education, health, transportation and other big-picture issues.

Which in turn led me to think about how the lessons from Moneyball can be applied to our state, our region and our business community.

Amazon.com describes Moneyball (the book by Michael Lewis and the follow up movie starring Brad Pitt) as “Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, is leading a revolution. Reinventing his team on a budget, he needs to outsmart the richer teams. He signs undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games. Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball and a tale of the search for new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.”

I’m a baseball fan, but I’d suggest that Moneyball is about much more than baseball; rather, it’s a lesson of how any organization with limited resources can compete with the big guys with seemingly unlimited resources. Moneyball isn’t a story about a baseball team; it’s a metaphor that can be applied to any organization.

The big guys have bigger budgets. The big guys have more resources. The big guys “win” more. Sound familiar? There’s always someone in your competitive set with more resources. Welcome to life. You can cry about it or you can approach things as the Oakland A’s did in Moneyball.

Relating this story to TBD Colorado and to our own organizations: how does a business (or a metro district, or a county government, or a state government) apply the lessons learned from Moneyball in order to compete with the big guys with more resources?

Lesson #1: Think differently. Don’t try to compete on a level playing field if the playing field is inherently not level. Moneyball teaches us that we can all learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. Through the unsentimental use of statistics and doing things differently, Billy Beane was able to exploit inefficiencies in the market for baseball talent and build a low-budget team that triumphed over their big-market competitors.

Applied to your business or government, it’s choosing to look at the challenges that exist and trying to determine how to fix them – not by throwing money at the problem (a la the New York Yankees) but rather by inherently changing policies and the standard way business is done (a la the Oakland A’s).

Lesson #2: Stick with it. It’s a huge organizational challenge to mix things up and think differently. Businesses, governments and organizations have an internal culture that develops over time and you can’t necessarily change that overnight. In Moneyball, Billy Beane faced this challenge with his manager and key players and scouts. He wasn’t afraid to trade key players & he wasn’t afraid to fire scouts that didn’t get on board with the new way of thinking. Apply this lesson to business, knowing that you need to take the time to teach your staff and people the “why” behind the new way of thinking. If they choose not to get on board, well…….that’s their choice.

Lesson #3: Math is a great equalizer. Much like baseball, business can be approached from a mathematical and statistical standpoint (marketing efforts, specifically). When somebody can effectively use quantitative analysis in the business realm, it will fundamentally redefine the way people look at your business. Ensure that results are being measured, track everything and double down on the efforts that work best while eliminating those that don’t produce. Easy enough to say, but the challenge is looking at business and your marketing efforts in a different way and not using the old way of thinking as a crutch – “It’s creating positive noise!” is not a strategy.

Regarding the TBD Colorado efforts, it strikes me that the state of Colorado (as well as businesses and other organizations) can likely increase efficiencies and compete with the big guys not by finding ways to raise revenues and spending more but rather by thinking differently, sticking with it and utilizing math to do business differently.

Level the playing field by changing the basic assumptions. That’s a model for success that anyone can follow. Thanks Moneyball.

What can your business do to help? If you benefit from our regional efforts, get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. If you are already a member, tell your neighbors to join to help us do more here in the valley.

As always, I encourage all member businesses to get engaged with the Partnership and to contact us with any suggestions you may have to help us better serve you and for non-members to join the Partnership. Call us at (970) 476-1000 or stop by our offices in Avon at Traer Creek Plaza to share your feedback.