Thoughts from Movie “Moneyball”
Moneyball is a film about Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), a famous GM of Oakland Athletic Club which revolutionize the way clubs hire baseball player using statistics. First, Oakland is an underdog team which had several good players. Unfortunately, their good players always moved to bigger clubs because of bigger salary, which Oakland cannot afford it. Bored with this situation, in one season, Billy, backed with his assistant (an economic graduates from Yale) used statistic to search for undervalued players in baseball. All they used was statistic data of the players, and based on the data, Billy traded several players and built his best teams.
The first part of the season, their team was such a dull that everybody thought Billy was crazy to build that messy team. There were also some disagreement from scouts team and head coach of the club to the rosters Billy has bought. But, Billy strongly believed that the team he prepared was the best he could afford. So, he became more aggressive to make sure his ideal formation been used by the coach (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman), including traded players he thought their team didn’t need.
The second half of the season, their team became awesome, even made a history by recording 20 winning streak. Although his team finally lost in championship series, Billy has changed the game of recruitment. Baseball teams became aware that they can use statistical approach to find better player with affordable price, rather than gamble on some ‘looks-promising’ future talent and gave them high salary, but in the end failed to deliver impressive performance for the team and became a mediocre player for the rest of their career.
This is the first time I wrote several notes while I was watching movie. Here are some points:
– Statistic is powerful tool for us if we know the context and relevance with our question. Yes, statistics can deceive us sometimes, especially if we just interpret the result without deep understanding of the variables we calculate with statistical tools. With big samples, statistic will reveal the ‘truth’ of one problem so that we can fairly analyze about the problem with objective thought. How about intuition? We sometimes overvalued our intuition, think that our intuition is the best way to make decision when we hesitate about something. But, don’t be wrong. Good businessman sometimes use their intuition because they have a lot of real experience (qualitatively statistic?) and they know what works and what not works. They have been used and exposed to much real ‘study case’ that they recorded that in their head and later become their fast judgment. It’s not just a feeling or imaginative intuition. It’s experienced intuition that will lead you to successful journey. Combine your intuition and statistic, make fair and objective judgment as you can and you will get a better decision.
– Talent is a gift, but it takes more than that to become successful. Beane himself was once considered as a gifted player. While great players normally have 3 ‘tools’ in baseball game, Beane was said to possess 5 ‘tools’. The recruiting scout was so confident that he would become a great player. But, in fact, he failed to impress the team, traded to smaller and smaller teams and be forgotten in baseball world (before he found his sabermetric approach). Beane was so broke at that time. He sacrificed his Stanford scholarship to become pro player and later just to find out that he failed badly. He was famous in junior level, but failed in senior level. We often find that phenomenon in our real world too, people with very high grades in school, junior athletes with high achievement in high school/university cannot continue their stardom after joining professional world (work or sports). It needs more than talent to be as successful as Steve Jobs. Yes, you can be skilled as Jobs, but if you were born in wrong era, you don’t have enough hunger and confidence as Jobs, or you won’t work as hard as Jobs, skill enough won’t take you there.
– Look for undervalued and potential things (could be partner, players in Beane case, or business in real world case). Sometimes society go hype with ‘stardom’ and forget the rest, which also has their own potential. When you think you find a raw diamond which still ‘cheap’, you can choose to neglect it like other people, or try to develop it to become your own beautiful diamond in the future, after sweat and tears of course.
– Be clear with your goals and strategies to achieve them, and try to match your skill set (or team, employees, stuffs) with your needs. Beane discarded (or traded) several players that other people thought the team still needed them, but in Beane opinion, those players blocked the team to perform as he wanted. So, do not overlooked what you have in the moment. If you think that it’s no longer relevant with your future needs, you need to make a big switch. Learn something new that will be useful in the future. (well, the good news is we cannot delete our memory or knowledge like deleting old files, right?).
– Changes, especially big and disruptive ones, will always bring resistance at the beginning. Beane approach by using statistical tools to recruit has been protested by his scout team who thinks that experience is far more important than just numbers. They felt that Beane was not respecting their jobs because their recruitment advice was not used by Beane at all. After that, Beane was stubborn enough to go on with his decision, as he was said to be crazy to build those messy teams with ‘second grade’ players. After losing quite a lot, the fans and commentator became louder at insulting Beane, said that it was because his decision to use statistical tools as recruitment basic. After surprising winning streak in the rest of the season, his approach was later recognized as one of the best revolution in baseball world. Boston Red Sox, another big teams which quite spent a lot of building great team with superstars but never won the title, offered GM job with highest salary to Beane, told him that his idea was revolutionary and asked him to ‘change’ Boston team. Beane rejected that offer, but Red Sox continued with that approach and later able to be a champion. Disruptive ideas, whether we like or not, whether we approve it or not, will change our life. The problem is whether we want to accept reality and adapt with it, or resist to change and later find that we are left behind. One example, Blackberry once refused the idea of implementing new operating system like iOS and Android, still believe that theirs was the best. Now, we hardly used Blackberry anymore (I used it mainly just for chatting for work related stuff, and will leave it after office hour), replaced by Android and iOS gadgets. Nokia was also the same with their feature phone. Later, they realized their mistake and installed Android and Windows Phone to compete in modern mobile competition. But it was quite late. iOS and Android already took off and enjoy their domination in mobile OS.
Well, there are some thoughts that I think I can get from this movies. Please share your opinions in the comment section so that we can have more discussions 😉