What do Brad Pitt and People Analytics have in common?

Patrick Phelan | 18th April 2016

We’ve got to think differently”… This is a direct quote from Brad Pitt’s character in the film Moneyball where he aims to challenge the status quo of how things have always been done. It’s also a sentence I hear from a lot of people in HR and client services who I speak to on a daily basis. Changing the way organisations engage with their culture and stakeholders is always a tough job no matter who you are. Whether you are one side or the other, any shift in mentality takes time.

In one scene the Lead Scout tells Brad Pitt’s character Billy Beane, the General Manager of Oakland Athletics, that he needs to listen to the experience and wisdom in the room when deciding which new players to bring in. However, Billy wants to buy players based on data & facts, not hunches and feelings.

people analytics

Will businesses embrace People Analytics?

This approach is prominent in any organisation, and why shouldn’t it be if that organisation is doing well from intuitive decision making. It’s like the age old debate of what matters more art or science? But it’s a pointless one because they both need to work together to achieve the best possible outcome.

In our own world, this is currently the case with people analytics. It is bringing a disruptive element to the industry which some companies embrace and some run away from. The market for this type of technology is growing fast. People focused professionals no longer want to rely just on intuition & gut feeling and want to use this type of technology as a safety net to at least back up those feelings or even challenge them.

Towards the end of the film, the same Lead Scout is encouraging Billy to listen to all the knowledgeable scouts they have, opposed to statistics driven by an economics graduate. Billy’s reply is simple: adapt or die. It may seem dramatic but we’ve all seen through the decades what happens to companies who reject change in favour of the familiar. Whether it’s Blockbuster, Blackberry or Woolworths, history is littered with them.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution

Exec summary

When talking about how companies need to embrace people analytics, adapt or die may be a bit dramatic, but it’s certainly a case of failing to act now means playing catch-up later. So… what do Brad Pitt and People Analytics have in common? The answer is that change is good. Change does not always mean different, just an evolution of better.

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