Last night my wife and I finally saw the film Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I had heard a lot about how inspiring it was. Also about how it parallels in many ways our industries. Well, I think it lived up to its hype. It’s the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he and Peter Brand changed the game of baseball during the 2002 season. They threw out 100+ year old thinking about how a team should be staffed and how the game should be played. They adopted a very radical system based on statistics and economics (Peter Brand was an econ major from Yale) and made history.
It was also very uncanny how much it paralleled the visual arts industry and the digital revolution. There’s one scene near the end where someone talks about the veterans in the industry being dinosaurs and getting left behind if they don’t adopt new ways. How can you not think about photography and filmmaking when a line like that is said.
Without spoiling it, here are the top lessons I took away from the movie that are so applicable to our businesses:
- Don’t use the economy as an excuse. There was one primary reason the A’s were in the position they were in: money. Or rather, the lack of it. They did not have the budget to keep their star players or hire other star players. Billy did not let that stop him from doing what it took to get the team where it needed to go. Are you using the crappy economy as an excuse? As a crutch? I can admit that I have from time to time. There have always been seasons of bad economies. There always will be. How can you change your business so that in both the good and the bad, you win?
- Make the hard choices. There were some really hard decisions they needed to make. Players who had to be traded or just plain fired. Positions that had to be filled by some who had no experience in those positions. Hard and humbling phone calls and meetings that had to be taken in order to keep the team afloat. Are you ready to make those hard phone calls (that’s a personal hard one for me I can admit).
- Share the vision with the team. It was important for Billy and Peter to share their vision and plan with the team so that 1) they knew what was going on, and 2) they knew what role they had to play. Have you shared your vision with the right people, internal or external?
- Anticipate your competitor’s move. Chances are your competitor is having the same issues you are. Chances are they may make the same kind of moves you would’ve made. Chances are they are NOT reading this blog. 🙂 What do you think they will do? Anticipate and make decisions accordingly.
- Adapt or die. This statement may be bordering on cliche, but truth will never be cliche. The A’s were in a position where they absolutely could not play the game the way they always had. It was imperative for them to change how they approached the sport. If you’ll indulge me, allow me to drop some Trekker geek knowledge that also brilliantly illustrates this lesson. In “Best of Both World – Part II,” (one of the best episodes in ST:TNG history) Cmdr. Riker (now promoted to captain after Picard is captured by the Borg) was able to defeat the Borg and rescue Capt. Picard from their evil clutches only by throwing everthing he knew out the window and doing something radical. Are you playing by the old rules of the game, not going where you want to go and complaining you’re not getting there? Is it time to get radical?
My fear is that this blog post will go down as just another ra-ra, inspirational blog post that peps you up for the 5 minutes it takes you to read it. Then, by the end of the day, nothing will have changed. Don’t let that happen. If anything in this post has moved you you, act on that. Make a hard decision today. I bet you already know what it is. Don’t you? What’s the first thing that’s coming to your mind as you read this? Act on that. Now!
If you’re so inclined, write your hard decision in the comments below. Making it public gives you accountability. I’ll start. For me, I commit to calling ten people next week. (You may be one of the people getting a call from me. 🙂