In business schools, Moneyball is revered as a classic case in making use of old data in new ways that drive innovative management techniques. I finally saw the movie last week and was blown away by the performances as well as the underlying message: marginalize people, relegate them to being followers rather than leaders in your organization, and you’re missing out on their true value. Plus, it makes you a jackass.
Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s, needs a better way of doing business. He needs to recruit a wining team with a fraction of the budget that other baseball franchises have. Embedded in the low-level management rungs of a rival team, Beane meets Peter Brand, a Harvard-educated economist, who is a master with numerical data and passionate about the game. Beane plucks him from that unappreciative crowd and brings him to Oakland to stage a turnaround for the A’s.
I won’t spoil the outcome for anyone who has yet to see it – it’s so good that it needs to be at the top of your queue if for no other reason than to see Jonah Hill’s incredible performance as Peter Brand. Beane recognized that Brand was special, that he had a gift and a vision that wasn’t being recognized and rewarded. Beane’s not a saint. I’m not even sure that he’s a nice guy. But he has a nose for talent and he will not watch it go to waste. He’s observant, decisive, hard-working, and unrelenting in his vision. And he pays a lot more homage to skill in any form than he does to politics and tradition.
Corporations need their own Bill Beane. There are plenty of Peter Brands inside their walls; most executives are just too dumb, jealous, and / or egotistical to recognize them. Boxes on org charts are not chess pieces to be moved around a corporate game board. They’re people who deserve respect, who have a right to their dignity. They day is coming when all the Peter Brands will no longer sit idly by, keep their heads down, and their mouths shut. They will find the Billy Beanes of the world, roll up their sleeves, and get to work to beat their former employers at their own game.
I for one am ready to see Moneyball’s lessons expanded beyond the field. Let’s play ball!