This is the story of Oakland A's manager Billy Beane, who meets an Ivy League econ grad, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), who views players through the lens of analytics and statistical probabilities. Beane (played by Brad Pitt) always loses his best players to big-money clubs and needs to find a new way to win. Following a hunch, he hires nerdy Peter Brand, and the pair begin to change the way the club drafts and plays. The two establish a culture of measurement and make hiring decisions based on science and probabilities, which upsets scouts and greatly irritates the Oakland A's coach. The dramatic tension increases as the newly assembled team loses game after game. Beane and Brand hang tough, although Beane is carrying the seeds of doubt from his own can’t-miss-but-did career as a major baseball player.
As is the case with statistics and probabilities, over time, the bet pays off, and the Oakland A's see a record-breaking streak of 20 winning games in a row.
Moneyball is about the fundamental cultural shift from picking players based on hunches to looking at the game in a more rational and objective way, measuring each player's performance and displaying the results in the forms of percentages, graphs, and comparison charts. In essence, the shift from Baseball 1.0 to Baseball 2.0 allowed Billy Beane to see greater value in the underappreciated or ignored players that the old scouts considered washed out or destined for the minors. The movie has a great scene in which the good old boys chew the fat, commenting on the assets and liabilities of their draft prospects, focusing on age, injuries, and gossip trivia, such as, "If a player has an ugly girlfriend, it means he doesn't have much confidence."
I can easily see Brad Pitt in the role of a sales manager who has lost three of his top producers to the competition. It is not a big stretch to imagine Peter Brand as the new sales operations manager who teaches his boss how to match salespeople's talents to their specific job requirements. The sales operations manager is the science nerd who knows which tools can fix the sales manager’s problems.
Once the sales manager shifts the focus from chasing superstars to creating a Sales 2.0 organization that aligns people, process, and technology, the outcome can be as spectacular as the Oakland A's record-breaking winning streak.
If you are looking to hire salespeople based on science, take a look at www.calipercorp.com or www.hrchally.com. If you want to explore predictive analytics, test-drive www.lattice-engines.com or www.cloud9.com. If you want to model your sales-compensation plan and predict results, check out www.xactlycorp.com or www.callidussoftware.com. If you want to take a closer look at 30 of the most valuable and profitable Sales and Marketing 2.0 tools available on the market today, visit www.sales20conf.com/sm2011 and attend our conference. (Full disclosure: I am hosting this event.)
The actionable insight I walked away with after seeing Moneyball: Success doesn't wait for those who act only when they "have a hunch."