18 Nov A True Challenge To The Status Quo
“We have got to think differently”, says Oakland Athletics general manager, played by Brad Pitt, to the scouts of the team in the movie MoneyBall (2011). I saw the movie recently and I found it utterly inspiring when when touching on the topic of innovation and challenging the status quo, especially considering that it was based on real events.
The character of Brad Pitt, Billy Beane, starts the movie completely frustrated because of the inability of the Oakland Athletics to pass the first round of the postseason of the US Major League Baseball. Even further, the team loses its best players and had to be rebuilt. The scouts are concerned about replacing the star players but the general manager insists that this is not their real challenge because they lack the budget to do so. The system of player transfers is a broken process: Scouts look for future stars, though they cannot predict the future, and small teams cannot compete against the big team budgets. Then, Billy Beane meets Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about how to assess players’ value. The key is not to buy players but to buy victories.
Billy Beane completely transforms Oakland Athletics with a limited budget and going against multiple resistances, and initiates a change that ends up transforming also the baseball industry.
True disruptive and sexy innovations normally begin challenging the status quo. It is a process that consists on breaking down barriers and combating the resistance of those who want to preserve the old system, even when knowing it is a broken process. Beane faces that resistance in the movie, represented by the sports media, the team’s coach and one of the leading scouts.
There are some other important lessons in the film: When generating a major change, passion is more important than money, as well as the vision and the capacity to draw the real challenge to solve a real problem.
Close to the end of the movie, the owner of Boston Red Sox perfectly summarizes the process of challenge the status quo and disrupt an industry during a conversation with Billy Beane:
I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sitting on their ass on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.
Being a first player in innovation is always a hard job.