5 data truths learned from “Moneyball” legend Billy Beane
“The idea that I should trust my eyes more than the stats, I don’t buy that because I’ve seen magicians pull rabbits out of hats and I know that the rabbits are not in there.”
Billy Beane Executive Vice President, Oakland Athletics
It is officially March, meaning it’s likely you’ve knocked out your first event of the year – your Company Kick-Off! Here at Bombora, we gathered (virtually) to celebrate 2021 wins, review our go-to-market strategy for 2022, and of course, hear from our amazing guest speaker.
Billy Beane, former General Manager now Executive Vice President for the Oakland Athletics – famously known for revolutionizing the world of sports through the use of data – was gracious enough to join us. You may recognize him from both the book and movie Moneyball. Below are some key takeaways we learned from Billy as we talked shop during our CKO.
Data Parallels in Baseball and Business:
There’s always going to be noise while using data and what data is versus what it isn’t, but it’s important to filter out such noise and focus on data sets and metrics that will get you to your desired outcome. For the A’s, that meant investing in, and slightly gambling on, stats that weren’t historically looked at by scouts and GM’s; those being number of walks and on-base percentages.
Objective vs Subjective Decisions
When using data to make decisions, Billy felt he already had the answers. He knew he wasn’t going to be right all the time, but by taking a quantitative approach to his process, he felt he could anticipate outcomes and increase his chances of winning in the long run. By looking at things objectively vs subjectively, Billy and team were able to track back on their decisions and evaluate when something didn’t work in hopes that they could self-correct moving forward.
Billy compared this philosophy to that of an algorithm, whereas over time each decision they made would yield stronger results, since each decision was data-driven and not just based on gut feelings. He felt like the more consistent he was, the more consistent the team was. This systematic approach created a cadence that is still used today not just in baseball, but across all professional leagues.
What was incredibly important when choosing this data-driven approach was the need to remain disciplined. Billy acknowledged that there is a natural response to automatically default back to what has worked in the past, especially when faced with both organizational resistance and failure. He knew that by remaining truly disciplined with this strategy, over time success would outnumber failures, resulting in more wins at a fraction of the cost for the organization.
Data is so readily available in today’s world, it’s no longer just about having access to it, but instead about acting on it. It is important and essential to have individuals on your team, who can organize and execute these data-driven strategies. Only then will these teams gain a competitive edge on their competition, no matter the industry that they are in.
“No matter how successful you are, change is always good.”