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18 2011

Brad Pitt, Management Guru?

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

Anyone interested in modern leadership has to see Moneyball. Unveiled at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this fall, Pitt, it’s producer and star, was quoted by CBC news as saying "It’s a story about our values: how we value other people, what we value as success, what we value as failure." Those comments, which he’s consistently made about the movie stand in some contrast to reviews of the book on which it’s based, Moneyball, by baseball aficionado, Michael Lewis. Reviewers tend to emphasize what also shows up a lot in the film – the statistical method called sabermetric s that a number of teams now use to analyze players’ skills in contrast to the old baseball scouts’ methods of assessing talent on factors they developed in their association with the game - some might call it instinct. The real story here is a version of successfully blending “high tech/high touch.” Today we have massively higher powered tools for recruiting. It’s easy to calculate statistics, although not many people picked out the most helpful ones in baseball that would lead to assembling the full skill set for a winning team. The main protagonist, Billy Beane, did, and took the Oakland A’s all the way to ultimate victory despite being unable to afford the salaries of any great star players that the other teams constantly bid into the stratosphere. The high touch part gets somewhat shorter shrift in reviews, typical of how we evaluate the role of HR versus finance in organizations. Of course, it’s always harder to explain, to point to and demonstrate, but teamwork is the essential ingredient and that, in turn, is based on trust, respect, engagement of everyone in the team goals and learning to work together smoothly to achieve the overall result. It’s a bit oversimplified to say that if you sprinkle a few extremely highly paid prima donnas in among your core players, you immediately set the stage for jealousies, for attempts to show “I’m better than he is,” rather than for everyone to work closely in collaboration, setting up and supporting success by their teammates instead of worrying about how big their own next contract will be. The same points have been made in hockey – that Wayne Gretzky, for instance, got vast numbers of points for ‘assists’ (for helping other players score) and that was a significant part of what made him the greatest player of the time. You can be a superstar and be a team player, too. It’s just that very few superstars work that way. and we need to develop more of this in every organization. Plexus Institute (the Complexity Science group) has turned more and more toward these questions and just sent out a newsletter headlining a lead story with some excellent points called Superstars or Super Collaborators. After pointing to similar “moneyball” approaches now used for building winning soccer teams, author Prucia Buscell makes the outstanding point at the end that perhaps the best solution isn’t “either/or” but “both/and.” Just posing the question that way is a major contribution to the evolving discussion, highlighting as it does the central question. Can we do without either when our organizations need both to succeed at the top of their industries? There will undoubtedly be more to say when we’ve all actually seen the movie. I for one will be looking most closely at how Pitt handles the team collaboration questions. A key criteria, as I understood it from earlier descriptions, was that the lack of superstars helped when they tried to bring the team together to function smoothly and support each other. In retrospect, though, you have to conclude that if you can being a team of superstars or one with at least some superstars to function well, you should have an advantage. as long as, by selecting those, you don’t depend so excessively on them that you forgo assembling all the varied, diverse skills a complete team needs. As we’ve discussed before, diversity is more challenging to manage, but ultimately far more rewarding in results. Bookmark and share this post More »

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