Billy Beane, The Prince

fhd011MNB_Arliss_Howard_001In the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane, Oakland A’s general manager in 2001, forced by the situation of the club, managed to put together a successful baseball team on a budget by cleverly using data analysis to hire (and fire) players. As usual, at the beginning nobody understood what he was trying to do. Then, the “establishment” reacted against the new thing, as it is eloquently described by John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, when he is trying to hire Billy at the end of the 2002 season:

For forty-one million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Pena and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent one point four million per win and you paid two hundred and sixty thousand. 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. (John Henry, Moneyball)

This is all but a new theme in innovation and, if fact John Henry’s quote reminds me of another very well know quote by Niccolo Machiavelli in “The Prince” on what he describes as the introduction of a new order of things:

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. (Niccolo Machiavelli, “The Prince”  Chapter VI, Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired By One’s Own Arms And Ability)

Do you really want to be an innovator?


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