This post is Innovate Like Moneyball Part 2 so try to read that first.
I recently heard a great spot on NPR from Frank DeFord about the fascination with Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American New York Knicks basketball sensation. Jeremy Lin has become the latest version of Tim Tebow. Anyone looking at his previous stats would say he was an average backup player to having no chance at an NBA career at all. Pretty soon, scouts will be saying things about their recruits as having “The Lin Factor”. It’s that special thing about him that gets fans excited while executing on the court (or field) in an amazing way.
In Moneyball fashion, can a statistician find a Jeremy Lin?
Perhaps, but it would be a long shot and they’d need some divine help. Here is why.
Life and business can be only calculated so much. I’m asked all the time in marketing from clients how we can have better “quantifiable” results. It always amuses me because a client definitely wants life to be put together in an organized fashion that they can control like a wizard. Don’t we all, especially when money and reputation is at stake?
A statistician would say that people like Doug Flutie, Tim Tebow, or Jeremy Lin are flukes. They rose to the occasion when given the chance and delivered but their overall stats might be considered mediocre.
Ultimately life and business should be both about quantifiable and qualitative results. That is how the best research is done to understand stats and behavior.
Clients say they want the “Lin Factor”,”Apple Factor”, or “Nike Factor” for their brand.
Can you quantify how to get that? That’s not the point. We should celebrate the statistician and the scout equally. When working well together, that “Factor” can happen and I’ve seen it time and time again with teams I am a part of.
The result can be “greatness”. And you know it when you see it.