I am a baseball fan, and I love this time of year. My favorite team has played themselves out of it in 2011; there will be no defending the World Series title for the San Francisco Giants. But that doesn’t make me love baseball any less and it doesn’t make me less interested in the final week going into the playoffs. This is when the rabid come out of their hiding. This is the time of year when MLB fans makes NFL fans look like complete amateurs.
With precision like timing, the new film Moneyball was released on Friday. Now you could say I went to see it for Brad Pitt, but that would be untrue. Not a big fan of Brad, truth be told. I went to see it for three reasons: 1) The book was one of my all time favorites, followed closely by everything else Michael Lewis has ever written, 2) The whole premise of the book is based on tearing down every conventional belief you have ever had about why some teams win and some teams lose, and 3) I am a total sucker for any movie about an underdog.
Apparently so is the rest of America—Moneyball didn’t quite beat out the re-release of The Lion King, but you know Disney’s annuities on these things is never ending with millions of new kids being born every year, so it’s not really a fair compare.
The underlying theme of this movie speaks universally to everyone, whether they understand a lick about baseball or not: you can’t beat a much larger competitor at the game they created. You have to change the game. And you have to change it so fundamentally and profoundly that it will cause even your closest friends to say you have totally lost it. Everyone who works for you will quit and the one lone person who thinks you might be on to something is so odd that no one wants to be in the same room with them. You have to throw out everything you know, everything your career and your life is based on, and start all over. And you have to trust people that are your complete polar opposite in temperament, intellect, and personality. I call them orthogonal thinkers. They just see things differently. Surround yourself with them.
Go see the movie for some inspiration, and then go back to your organizations and start thinking differently. If you are a regional organization, stop looking at national ones for the answers. If you are a national org, stop looking at each other. If you want to cure cancer, $50 million isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to raise $50 billion. And while I am not sure I know exactly how to do that, I know one thing for sure: it’s most likely not the way you’re doing it today.
Billy Beane has yet to win a World Series, but there is no question he has forever changed the way team owners and managers think about why some teams wins and why others don’t. And that, in my opinion, is far more lasting a legacy than a championship ring.