The Impulse Factor

How spur-of-the-moment decisions lead to better choices.

And the Oscar for Best Decision Goes to...

Brad Pitt's lessons on leadership.

Moneyball movie poster
MONEYBALL
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Last year produced plenty of good flicks with poignant lessons about decisions on life, love, and leadership.  But the clear winner is Moneyball.   

Based on Michael Lewis' book, Moneyball is the (mostly) true story of how the 2002 Oakland A's broke the single-season Major League Baseball record for longest winning streak. The drama hinges on the fact that A's General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) is charged with creating a winning team sans superstars on a shoestring budget that is barely 1/3 the size of opponents like the New York Yankees.  

But don't be misled. This is much more than a feel-good Hollywood underdog story starring the tough-yet-inspirational leader who uses both iron fist and heart of gold to whip his motley crew of outcasts and has-beens into unlikely champions. Nor is it a touching tale about the power of teamwork. 

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Moneyball is a playbook for successful decision making in the Information Age.

Lesson 1: Knowing is half the battle. At the heart of Billy Beane's new system is the statistics-backed conclusion that great players don't win ballgames. Scoring the most runs wins games, and it doesn't matter whether an all-star or a no-namer scores those runs. What does matter is that players first get on base so they can eventually score a run. Armed with this fact Beane employs "on-base percentage" as his Decision Pulse to guide his personnel choices.   

So the truth sets the A's free, right? Not so fast. Moneyball also brilliantly illustrates the chasm between acquiring good information and acting on it. In this gap is where information ends and leadership begins.

Lesson 2: Knowing is ONLY half the battle. When he explains that intuition will no longer be the guiding light for player decisions, Beane has to fight off mutiny from his scouts, his team manager and the press. They all believe that Beane is "outside of his mind."

A few years ago, psychologist Christian Resick and his team found that ball clubs led by general managers who hold a high core self-evaluation (a person's fundamental bottom line evaluation of their abilities) won an average of five more games per season than other managers. Here is the other secret to Beane's success. It was that sturdy self-concept that undoubtedly enabled Billy Beane to execute his unpopular decisions.

The point is that elegant algorithms and powerful statistical analysis programs can be excellent for pointing us toward the right decision. But executing decisions despite social and emotional roadblocks takes a very human strength that statistics can't buy.

Nick Tasler has a background in organizational psychology. He is the author of Why Quitters Win: Decide to Be Excellent.

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