“How do we come to our decisions?”  Omar Minaya asked, reflecting on his read of Moneyball.  Via the camouflage of baseball as the substance of discussion Moneyball unwittingly compels us to reflect on decision making and how we do it. In baseball, for example, the rationale for signing a player has “gotta be more than I like him” according to Minaya.  Minaya tells us that “whether we are talking about Wall Street or a law firm” that is where a careful reflective reading of Moneyball (or possibly even viewing of the film) takes us.  What can we do make better decisions?

Villanova Law School recently hosted the panel, “Moneyball’s Impact on Business and Sports” featuring: Omar Minaya, Senior Vice President Baseball Operations, San Diego Padres;  Billy Beane, Vice President and General Manager of the Oakland Athletics; Jeffrey Moorad, Vice Chairman and CEO San Diego Padres; and, Phil Griffin, the President of MSNBC.

“Baseball has always had a way, even going back to Jackie Robinson, to speak to us all more broadly,”  Minaya reflected, sounding more like a philosopher than baseball executive.  This is the man who was the first Latino General Manager in Major League Baseball.

The broader lesson from Moneyball is, how can we make our decisions in a more sophisticated and precise manner? How can we get more consistency and success in whatever it is we do on a day to day basis?  Beane explained that he did it with statistics.  “Looking at things rationally was a way of eliminating noise.”  In baseball the tradition was to eyeball talent. It’s a business where a lot of people have a lot of opinions just based on their “gut.” These opinion holders range from fans like you and me to true baseball insiders. These opinions, as well as the old way of doing business, create the noise that Beane refers to.  In his business statistics, the right statistics brought about more consistency in decision making. 

Moorad focused on the sustainability of success, “Pick a philosophy and stay with it.” To him a big lesson from Moneyball was discipline. With discipline, “you give your organization the best chance of success.”  He gave Villanova Law School a boost for continued success by making a gift of $5 million for a center focused on sports law. 

Phil Griffin, the President of MSNBC, led with the most provocative thought for all of us. He noted that among other things Moneyball tells us, whatever enterprise we are involved in to “challenge authority.”  He stresses that to do so you have to know and understand your business and seek out opportunity where the opportunity gaps exist. Where can you find success via a method that others have missed?