I’ve just finished reading Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, which has been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Finding insight in different places often provides a new perspective on the work we do. For me, the commonality was the desire to build a high performing baseball team and the desire to build a high performing school, district or system.
The book is based on the exploits of former major league baseball player and general manager of the Oakland As, Billy Beane. Beane faces the uneviable task of trying to build a succcessful baseball team within ever increasing financial constraints and greater expecations by fans. The tried and true method of drafing players rested with talent scouts who would scour the country identifying players based on personal perception and experience. Beane decides they need to do something differently to turnaround the team and enlists the help of a statistician who has no baseball experience.
Surprised by the amount of data that was either unused or previously unanalsyed, Beane and his statistician begin analsying player by player. And like all good Hollywood scripts, the team begins to improve because Beane had the courage to challenge the prevailing culture, to use evidence to support the decision making process, to put the best players where they would make a difference and to question the existing paradigm. If the Oakland As was a case study in education, Michael Fullan would refer to this as a turnaround school. While Beane didn’t dismiss the wisdom of the crowd (the talent scouts), he sought to get the best results using evidence and experience.
What are the lessons we can learn from the Oakland As? Are we hitting home runs for our school communities?