On Moneyball and the ability to identify and solve a problem
I’ve seen the film Moneyball. Twice. For three reasons: I love baseball, I loved the book and I really like that song by Lenka (you’ll have to see the movie to figure that one out).
The film chronicles how in 2003 Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, changed the way baseball assessed players. Without going into too much detail, he (along with his assistant Paul Depodesta) drew the simple conclusion that teams aren’t actually buying players, they are buying wins — which means they needed to buy runs — and in order to score runs, you need to find players who get on base — a lot.
He drew this conclusion because of his circumstances; the A’s had just lost one of the most powerful and effective hitters in the game, Jason Giambi. He signed a huge multi – million dollar deal with the New York Yankees. The A’s, a team with a much smaller budget, could not afford to sign another Jason Giambi.
One of the film’s pivotal scenes shows Beane, sitting with his player scouts, asking “What is the problem?” The scouts, members of the old guard, simply say “We need to replace Jason Giambi.” Beane knew, based on his budget, that was impossible and he needed to tackle the problem differently.
The scene made me think of or jobs in advertising. Like Beane, we always need to ask ourselves “What’s the problem?” before we tackle a project. What are we trying to solve here? So many times, its not a simple answer such as “create an ad” or “make a website.” More often, the answers are much more complicated. Getting to the core of what a brand stands for and understanding how consumers want to interact with that brand is essential.
The parallels of the baseball world depicted in the film and the advertising word I live in are even more stark when it comes to matters of budget. Beane had to think differently because he simply didn’t have the money. It seems to be happening more and more in the ad biz that we need to adjust our thinking as budgets are getting smaller and smaller and clients want to do more with less. As Beane did, we need to challenge ourselves every day to come up with creative solutions that just aren’t great, but are also practical.
Beane solved it and put together a team of players that no one else wanted — and he succeeded. (It didn’t hurt that he had a great pitching staff, but that’s another story). He found a way to use creativity and innovative thinking to assess his available resources, think differently about the problem at hand and set a course to solving it. It’s an ability that as creatives, we all need to have.