Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Content Strategy: 3 Lessons from Moneyball
I won’t even pretend to explain the plot of Moneyball because what I know about baseball is this: you need a ball, a bat and four bases.
What I can tell you is Moneyball is a movie about a man who tried to do something different within an industry that thought he was all wrong. In the film, Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics implements a system called Moneyball—introduced to him by a squishy Yale graduate named Peter, played by Jonah Hill.
The system is designed to pick players based on the number of runs they are able to accumulate, and therefore the wins.
Everyone thought it was crazy. Then the team won 20 games in a row, never before accomplished in Major League Baseball.
There are 3 major lessons content strategists can learn from Moneyball and they have nothing to do with batting averages:
1. Ask the right questions.
In at least 2 scenes, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) listens to a group of people arguing and responds to them, “You’re asking the wrong questions.” Then he boils down their problem to a question that better defines the challenge at hand.
If you’re a good content strategist, this happens to you on every project. Because your clients, or your boss, or someone on the executive team brings you a problem they think you can solve digitally. But very often, the problem as they have it defined is not the problem. Or, the problem does not have a digital solution.
Ask the right questions. Make sure you’re trying to solve the right puzzle.
2. The first one through a glass wall is the bloodiest.
At one point in the movie, the owner of the RedSox offers Billy Beane a job. Even though the team Billy managed didn’t make it to the World Series, the RedSox owner believes in what he’s trying to do.
The owner says to him “Any time you try to change things, people feel threatened and they knock you in the teeth for it. The first one through the glass wall gets the bloodiest.”
Content strategy is not really new. In fact, it’s the oldest job in the world—how do you get one group of people to march in one line on the same beat? Yet, very often, we’re seen as trying to do something radical, something that can’t be done, something that is worthless or impossible.
Epilogue to the movie? After applying these newfangled principles that everyone in baseball dismissed, the Boston RedSox won the World Series 2 years later.
3. Check to see if you’ve hit a home run.
When Billy Beane feels defeated after not advancing to the World Series, Pete shows him a video of one of their players who was terrified to run to second base at the start of the season. In the video, the player hits the ball 60 feet over the fence. The irony? The guy was so scared of running to second base that he falls on the turn and crawls back to first base. The other team has to tell him to look up and see the home run.
Effective content strategy is hard work. It’s a lot of heavy lifting and decisions. You don’t always know if you’re making the right ones. Change management is almost always involved.
Every once in a while look up and see that you’ve knocked it out of the park.
Maybe the baseball players were the ones who said it first: You have to celebrate the wins.