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Billy Beane on Innovation; Lessons From Moneyball

Moneyball Movie PosterIf you’re absolutely certain that what you’re thinking is correct, sometimes you have to disagree with an entire room of people, even if those people have much more experience than you.  “Experience” will get in your way.  “The way we’ve always done it” will get in your way.  “That can’t work, it’s never been done before” will get in your way.

Sometimes you can’t trust the experts, sometimes you have to trust your gut and stick to your guns.  Billy Bean  could have lost his job, but did what he needed to do. He was stubborn, unreasonable, down right crazy at times, but he knew it would work.

Innovation is based on measurement, calculated risk.  Innovators aren’t more risky than the average person, they just calculate risk in a different way.

The owner of the Boston Red Sox says to Billy Beane:

For forty one million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Pena and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankee’s won, but the Yankee’s spent one point four million per win and you paid two hundred and sixty thousand. I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will go bat shit crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sittin’ on their ass on the sofa in October, watch the Boston Red Sox win the world series.

Billy Beane essentially created a disruptive innovation in major league baseball by using statistics to make better decisions. This didn’t come without a price, it wasn’t easy, almost everyone around him at the time told him he was wrong. He had faith to see his plan through.

How will you…

  1. Recognize where using data can give you an unfair advantage against your competition
  2. Recognize an undeveloped disruptive innovation in your industry
  3. Recognize when to force adoption (for the greater good) instead of giving people a choice (Billy Beane traded away Carlos Peña so that the only option to play first base would be Scott Haddeberg)
  4. Recognize and standup to naïve experience