How Lessons From Moneyball Can Help Your Career
Moneyball started out as a book about the inner workings of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and how general manager Billy Beane found success without spending tons of money like the Yankees and Red Sox.
Now they've made the book into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which so far has made $50 million. That's how much it cost to make the movie, so it's officially going to turn a profit.
But are Beane's "unusual" methods of running a baseball team still profitable? Were they really as effective as they're made out to be?
Honestly? It doesn't matter — the book kicked off a revolution in the baseball world that we can all put to good use in our careers. (See also: 5 Quick Ways to Become a Better Networker Today)
The A's Method
The Athletics relied on statistical analysis rather just the subjective opinions of their scouts. So instead of drafting a player because Don Diamond (how's that for a fake scout name?) said he was "gonna be great," they focused their energy on what their statistical algorithms told them about the players.
And because they didn't have the budget to afford all the obvious players that the other teams wanted, they focused on one specific metric that — at the time — no one else really cared about — on base percentage.
The Secret Sauce
A lot of reviewers and baseball people have focused on that one metric and called it "the Moneyball way," but that's not what made the A's successful. A formula does not success make.
What made them successful was looking for inefficiencies in the market and exploiting them. In other words, they found something valuable that no one else was paying attention to. And that's a strategy we can all use to help us out in our careers.
Focus on the Undervalued
Find something in your company or in your industry that no one else is worried about, and find a way to make it work for you. What you're looking for is inefficiencies or chinks in the armor — something that no one else is trying to fix that could make a big impact for your company.
Let's take a look at a few examples.
Training New Hires
If you work at a small company, you may not have a whole lot of material dedicated to helping new hires learn the ropes. But if you really dig in, you'll find that companies lose a lot of money when replacing a hire or making a new one.
So if you created something (a manual, a checklist, a presentation) that made this onboarding process faster, smoother, and more effective, then you've just created some value.
When you start a new job, you'll hear "that's how we do things here" a lot. And the tendency is to nod your head, be quiet, and not ruffle any feathers. But that's the best time to try to change things because you have a fresh perspective.
When I worked at a publishing company, we had some buggy software, so we had to manually do a lot of checking and editing before we could start laying out the catalogs we made. Instead of complaining about the technology and convincing the bosses to pay someone to fix it (that wasn't gonna happen), I created a simple search-and-replace cheat sheet.
Once you ran through the steps in the sheet, you were ready to start laying out, and all those problems were essentially fixed in 15 minutes instead of two grueling hours. I passed the sheet around and boom — just like that, our group became way more efficient.
Finding Your Niche
Specialize in one very specific thing and make it your own. Maybe you work for a company that has a website, and you decide to focus on making it a great smartphone experience since so many people browse the web that way.
There are things you can do to make it better for them and to bring in some business from that channel. In the future, maybe you look into creating an app for your company (if it's a good fit).
The goal is to dig deep and find something you can "own" that's also going to be good for business. When you do, you'll be the hero.