* I have been on teams that were not considered the best until they had success, then everyone on the team was a "star".
* I have worked places where they only hire "superstars"-- and were pretty serious about paying for good talent and being picky-- and still failed for all kinds of organizational reasons. Teams with more role players, or more cohesion of goals would have performed better.
*I have seen people recommended because they worked at "X" or worked on the "X" project, and then turn out to be completely underwhelming. Great teams don't always only have great people, and sometimes the great team has people on it who are one promotion away being at their level of incompetence.
But finally a re-org came around and some high-level manager didn't have a box under which to put them (or didn't have the right budget item to fit them in), and the team was dissolved.
The guys were good in the teams they each landed in, but the synergy was dead.
Nowadays, my primary criteria for joining a team is the quality of the people and of the manager. I wish I could say I've seen other teams of the quality of that first one.
 yeah I said it
1) Solving the problems involved the focused exercising of all of my software dev knowledge – often around database access, sometimes around garbage collection and memory allocation of the specific platform.
2) The impact was highly visible and appreciated (by the team, management, and system users), and the result was usually objectively measurable, e.g., the global search now completes in 1/50th of the previous time.
That said, when I reflect on the 10 or so projects I helped in this time, they were all problems the senior dev(s) on the team could have figured out. So, it wasn't really that I was some rockstar who had special knowledge. It was more that I was given time to focus on the issues, while the regular devs on the team had bugs to fix, features to work on, etc.
Like you, I now work for myself, but if I were offered a job doing small-medium performance optimization projects (without travel), that would be tempting.
Sometimes that's sad. (When the client / team is awesome)
But usually it means not having to deal with any of the worst parts of office politics. (E.g. de facto stack ranking, non-merit-based favoritism jockying, office management politics, dysfunctional management priorities, waiting for someone to die / retire for a promotion, etc)
When you land in a role that has no finish line, it kind of removes the benefit of being a consultant.
> The individuals who made up the team were not exceptionally intelligent or talented, but they all enjoyed testing software and were better than average at it. When these like minded individuals were assembled, they they spent their working hours, lunches and sometimes free time collaborating on how to better find software defects.
> Soon the members of team were twice and then dozens of times more effective than their peers, and they began to view their jobs not as testing software, but as breaking software. Team members took a well-deserved pride in their abilities and began to cultivate an image of villainous destroyers. As a group, they began coming to work dressed in black and took to calling themselves "The Black Team."
You can generate heuristic data though. This really should be a priority for you during the interview process. They have the right to ask you very difficult questions, and you have the right to ask them very difficult questions as well.
That's mine too, but nowadays teams and especially managers last about 6 months in one place. What is one supposed to do?
You can build a supercluster of massive computers, but if the coordinators are not able to map good tasks onto the appropriate resource or reduce the output into something coherent and comprehensible, your cluster is going to be sitting at 99.9999% idle time.
And just as you can't stick supercomputers exposed to the elements in the Mojave with a 3G connection and expect them to last more than a few more minutes without crashing, you can't stick good coders in an environment that's not conducive to their group and individual welfare and expect them to do anything except crash.
Humans have much less consistent performance output than machines, no matter how "10x" people think you are. They are even more sensitive to their environments than delicate computing devices. They require a lot of coordination and organization to output something useful.
Everyone ebbs and flows. Focusing on productivity multipliers usually ends in disaster. In most cases, today's raw skill is much less important than a realistic, productive worldview.
This extends beyond hiring. For example, selecting a spouse based on present qualities is much less intelligent than selecting a spouse based on their attitude and worldview and the changes that worldview is likely to precipitate, regardless of the current state.
Sometimes that "superstar" kid is individually talented, but a net-negative on the team if the kid is a ball hog or doesn't share.
NOTE: We did win when the next batter came up and got the hit we needed.
i recommend coaching heartily. just don't get overly invested in winning (it's an important goal, but it's not everything).
The football team would be half quarterbacks, the hockey team mostly goalies and so on.
The baseball team the New York Yankees.
They seem to do OK.
Obviously it's early on the season, but we can look at last year's season to get a better heuristic. The top two teams in terms of roster salary were once again the Dodgers and Yankees. The Dodgers did come in first in their division but finished the season 12.5 games behind the eventual World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs, whose roster salary was barely 2/3 of the Dodgers. Oh, and the Yankees came in fourth place (of five) in their division, a whole nine games out of first place.
So yes, spending money helps you be a contender, but spending the most money is not a good metric for the best team (at least, not in baseball, and I'd imagine that being smarter about spending your money rather than spending more is useful in other fields as well).
At least in MLB, 40 multi-year players isn't that large a sample!
To throw another example on the list, the New England Patriots are 30/33 for salary money spent. The Miami Dolphins are 5th. Spending big money for rockstars is neither necessary nor sufficient.
Isiah Thomas was deserving, and Laettner was picked over Shaq. At the time, both were tossups. Johnson was older and so was Bird, but I assume they had high salaries per the topic.
But even great quarterbacks struggle if the O-line is dysfunctional.
And you definitely wouldn't be better off with 6 star quarterbacks than 1 average quarterback and 5 O-line players.
The larger point is that individual stars definitely matter a lot in pro sports. And recruiting and retaining them with extremely disproportionate amounts of money doesn't seem to be irrational for most sports.
4 of the top 50 highest paid players in the NHL are goalies.
You hear a lot about how a good goalie is half the team in modern hockey, so I thought that would translate to salaries.
Anyway, I hope I made my bigger point clear, despite the questionable example.
The same reason your team fights a lot when the other team messes with your goalie; can't afford an injured goalie.
The best what? If you're talking about a software development team, are you hiring the best software developers? The best devs in what niche? I consider myself a very good developer, but I would be shit for quite a while if I joined a team focusing on embedded systems. Or if I was writing an OS kernel. I would likely get up to speed and surpass some people, but I may never be as good at Y as I am at A, B, and C now. I may just not have the passion for it that I do for those other things.
To agree with your point more, assembling a team of 'rockstars' who are all good at just about the same things means that your team is likely going to have very large blind spots (say: testing, for instance), and contention over people's preferences for work. We can't all be the architect of a greenfield real time data processing service.
I fundamentally believe someone who is engaged, enjoys critical thinking, likes to learn, and is generally good (or at the very least conscientious) at their craft can move from technology stack to technology stack if it aligns with their personal interests and/or motivations. I do, however, believe we generally have our sweet spots where we are most apt. Maybe due to our preferences, possibly our aptitude, likely a combination of those and our personal preferences.
I consider myself stack agnostic, I float between a half dozen languages a month between professional and personal projects and depending on the problem trying to be solved. But if I sat down and thought about it, a couple of languages would float to the top as my preferred or best, and the rest would be because I'm good at solving a certain type of problem with them.
We can't all be the best at everything, but we can be really damn good at some, and together we can go full Voltron and kick ass. It's just too hard for someone in HR/Talent Acquisition to figure out who should be the leg or the arm (or even what Voltron is), and they're likely the filter most candidates must get through.
EDIT: To add, I'm not just ragging on HR/Recruiters either. I generally know what I'm looking for in developers but still consider it hard to interview and hire. I don't think I'm very good at being the interviewer in the formal interview process. Now, if we had all the time in the world and left the office to grab a pint and just talked like human beings I think I could feel it out better, but now I can't get any work done and I'm going to be drinking 5 days a week until I fill the position.
Yes, it's very important to realize that this is how people think; most of our decisions are subconscious, and the frame/bias that informs everything else about our perception is determined rapidly, within seconds of evaluating a situation or becoming acquainted.
If you bear the tokens of success (i.e., if you "look" successful), people will assume that means you know what you are doing, and if you don't, people will assume you don't. There is a pronounced halo effect on association. Anchor yourself against something generally considered successful and your perceived intelligence will go up precipitously.
Entrepreneurs especially need to take this lesson to heart. You will be a daydreamer and a slacker who can't handle having a boss right up until your company appears successful, and then you'll be a visionary that everyone is falling over themselves to try to imitate.
I've seen my share of failed projects throughout my career (as a participant and as a co-worker watching it happen). By a huge margin, most of the failed project did not fail because the engineering team was weak, or because they didn't hire "rockstar" programmers, or because the engineers didn't go to Stanford. They failed because of things like requirements growth, unrealistic schedules, emotion-based/gut-based (rather than measurement-based) product decisions, and external factors (market changing and company couldn't react). If companies spent more time worrying about these things and less time worrying whether their engineering interview candidates can balance a binary tree on a whiteboard, we might see hiring practices change.
There is an interesting anecdote that I love. Some number of years ago there used to be a show called EcoChallenge. It was made by Marc Burnett but before Survivor. It was simply an adventure race but no politics and no contrived voting. Each team of 4 must be co-ed. There is a starting point, there is a stopping point and there are way stations along the way. Simply go from start to end hitting the way stations. Everything else was left up to the teams. The one big twist is that you can't win unless ALL of the team hits each way point. Teams are allowed to race 24x7.
One of the last years it was on tv, a team of navy seals bombed out and a team of 3 playboy playmates went further then they did. The team that won (from NZ) had a sick teammate and spent two days nursing their teammate into passable health. They loaded up all that person's gear split 1.3x, 1.3x, 1.3x, 0x and set off. They rocketed past all of the other teams and won by over a day.
This is what real success looks like. A determined team laser focused on the exact same goal and doing whatever it takes to get there.
In fact, a lot of business is probably a lot closer to something more sadistic and cruel in gross mechanics like from Takashi Miike's 2014 As the Gods Will (and the manga of the same) - arbitrary filters where the rules are very clear only until after people have died. Some stages test raw individual skills while others test cooperation. And in some cases it didn't actually matter if you had either of those because "luck" is the bigger factor (the fact few in practice agree upon these slack variables to achieving business success shows how random things are for survivorship moreso than controllable factors like skill and effort)
YMMV here. I've seen many projects fail because teams unnecessarily accumulated technical debt of various sorts. I guess you could blame management for not knowing about it or prioritizing correctly or something, but good engineers know that you have to include technical cleanup in the feature estimate or you'll end up like this.
I've also seen many unforced errors that created more technical debt than was worth it (over-complicated from-scratch frameworks, betting on unproven demo-ware, etc.).
Now, part of that is on the engineers, but the only solution I know of is solidarity. But a lot of it came from systematic abuse from the project managers, wearing them down and then calling them incompetent when they couldn't deliver.
Just like this article says farther down, everybody is good at something. I've only had to talk about firing a handful of people (rather than reassigning) and it was always because they were belligerent to progress, or because of Dunning-Kruger Effect - they would not admit they weren't good at something and keep creating 2x as much work for everybody else who has to clean up after them.
Punishing people because they aren't good at everything is just some sadistic bullshit that makes small men feel important, and a lot of those are attracted to middle management. It's twisted and wrong and only rarely does a company succeed with that kind of corporate culture. And when they do there are always memoirs from the victims.
Patrick: This is the final roster? You're kidding me, right? You're missing some of the best players.
Brooks: I'm not looking for the best players, Craig. I'm looking for the right ones.
If the "right people" aren't the same as the "best people" are the criteria we're using for "best" correct?
Moneyball was about identifying and exploiting market inefficiencies. It actually rejects the team level optimization ("he's a team player" is explicitly rejected as a valuation of a player).
Instead, Billy Beane identified what components led to team success, then found which of those the market doesn't pay for. Then he got those guys.
Used to be thought that a good baseball team had a speedy leadoff hitter. Teams would play objectively worse players because they thought their style better "fit" their role.
Moneyball was the start of the revolution that you just want to get the best players. Then accept that playoffs don't really mean anything other than randomness with small sample sizes.
The fact that saving a run is nearly equivalent to scoring a run means it bleeds over into the defensive side as well. A phenomenal batter with a high error rate may be of enormous value to one team since their pitching staff strikes out more batters than average while being a terrible addition to another team.
If you're still unconvinced, I could throw together some simulations later that might make this clearer.
This is the older, common wisdom that has essentially been refuted by modern analytics (SABRmetrics, if you will).
Team-dependent statistics like R + RBI (and pitcher ERA!) are dependent on the performance of the rest of the team. They also correlate much less with a team winning games than other stats, like OBP.
That's one of the central theses of Moneyball and the SABR movement: it's better to ignore stats like (pitcher) Wins, RBI, and R, because they measure the teammates contribution more than the player you're tryign to measure.
One popular advanced pitching statistic is literally named Fielding Independent Pitching, and is calculated using only BB, K, and HR. This tracks more with contributions to a team winning than stats that include fielding skill, randomness, sequencing, etc.
What you described for a good hit / bad field team does work around the edges, but these effects are not very strong. The latest research suggests the biggest impact might be matching your pitching staff tendencies with fielders; if you have a flyball heavy staff, invest in better OF defense (Mariners, 2017). If you have worm burners (Houston, esp w/ Keuchel), invest in your IF defense.
The goal of the modern stat movement is to evaluate a player independent of team context using statistics that do not depend on their teammates. This is because estimating a players "true talent level" is much more useful than evaluating RBI.
However, the studies I've seen (regular Fangraphs and BP reader) suggest these interactions between player skill sets is minimal, if such an effect can be shown.
Take lineup position. It's been studied ad nauseam, by some of the brightest in the field. Turns out, lineup order, over the course of a season, doesn't really matter that much. An intentionally suboptimal lineup underperforms an "optimized" one by maybe a couple wins per year. Almost all lineups actually implemented are more like fractions of a win, which is generally within error bars.
By and large, baseball is a game where you just assemble the best talent and they will win. (This is in regard to on field talent; I do not believe "clubhouse culture fit" is as silly as in the tech world, and is usually retroactively defined.)
That being said... one win can be the difference between a playoff spot or not, so it clearly does matter. I'm just trying to emphasize that the teamwork aspect of the offense is minimal, as a lineup of hitters with solid statistics is more important than the order in which they bat.
However, the defensive side of things is much more tricky to measure. Baseball statistics still have a difficult time calculating the value (for better or worse) of a player's defense and nobody is arguing that it doesn't significantly affect a team's performance.
(I'd also argue that overall offensive ability trumps a lot of optimization around base stealing or the type of hits.)
ADDED: i.e. I'd argue that if populating a roster with about a half dozen All Star sluggers were financially viable, I'd argue that would probably be a pretty effective team however unbalanced.
The actual approach was to get a bunch of people who worked to extend the inning by not getting out.. aka getting on base safely. You don't need many big hits when you can get singles and doubles consistently.
A couple years ago, I met a small scale angel investment group that complained "we haven't had a unicorn" but when we chatted more, I found out 60% of their investments were acquired in under five years with them making ~5x each time.
Not as sexy but sounds like a good strategy to me.
Let me ask you - as I am not a baseball nerd - if there is any counter-argument to the BillyBeane/Moneyball/WAR movement ?
I don't mean knee-jerk, irrational objections - but real, reasoned counter-hypotheses ?
Billy Beane is constantly attacked for destroying the looker room chemistry in the local press.
True, only if you have a great team already and you don't desire messing it up. If that is the case, you wouldn't need that method at the first place.
On the other hand, teams are pretty dynamic these days given the interfaces and responsibilities are well defined. Or at least are largely defined well. So replacing team members is never really a problem.
- You can't always predict the future about a given player's performance.
- We're still arguing about what the right measures actually are (although there's more data all the time)
- There clearly are sometimes cases where personalities and attitude mean some player needs to leave even if his historical stats were good.
Let's continue to use hockey as an example, because I love ill-fitting sports analogies and I also love hockey. For sure, we already know we need 3 forwards, 2 defensemen and a goalie, so for the sake of argument, even if your 6th best skater is Wayne Gretzky, he's going to sit because you need to put Neuvirth in goal (to pick on my own team for a second). But let's think about forward lines only for just a second. Pittsburgh has Crosby and Malkin centering different lines, even though they're the best two guys on the entire team - they do the same job, they're playmakers first, goal scorers second (even though Crosby is the league's top goal scorer). Washington has Ovechkin playing the wing with Backstrom, because even though he's their best player, his job is to take a pass and fill the net.
That's a really long-winded way for me to say that "best" has a situational component, and teams have compositional elements that often involve roles. The 10 best people at that level in the company may all fill the same role, but on a team of 6, maybe there's only 3 of that role, and the other 3 are complementary parts. Best is situational.
I detest the man, but you can't use statistics to argue against him.
Yes it worked out for Brooks this time and god-bless-his-success, but really...the whole idea behind Moneyball is that people totally suck at it.
This caveat should have been put up front.
Since "Best" is a vague loaded term it's more accurate to understand the problem that you're trying to solve.
If you are creating a new web-standard or industry shifting technology then you absolutely need the best. If you are creating a new web based CRM for firefighters, then you need someone who is good, but probably doesn't do vector algebra in their head or [insert favorite discriminator for something hard.]
There's a tension between these two sentences which is worth more consideration about what “best” really means and how it intersects with scalability.
If you're working on a web standard, “best” tends to mean things like “experienced”, “works well with others”, and “broad and deep understanding of what the users do”.
If you're working on a major new technology, it might be more likely that you really need someone who is incredibly good at a particular hard skill but it's still likely that if you have a problem in that class it will exceed any individual's capacity and the limiting factors will continue to be coordination between people, ability to maintain clean separation of responsibilities, etc.
Think about something like LLVM – there's a ton of really hard work in compilers and optimization, it's had a significant impact in multiple parts of the industry, and while there are some people who rightly deserve a great deal of respect for work on those hard problems, a key part of the success which hasn't been virtuoso work at that level but rather keeping a design which is clean and extensible enough for so many different organizations to use and contribute to.
Maybe "Top of their discipline" would be a better way to say it.
One thing for sure: if you have mind-numbing processes, "the best" will leave, and others will not reach their potential.
You should have good team-building and organizational skills and good technical hiring skills.
But they aren't enough. The key driver of top-tier teams is excellent ongoing safe communication.
To build communications, use team goals (e.g. OKRs & KPIs), team ways of working (e.g. TEAM FOCUS), and team positions (e.g. scorecards).
My notes about these are open source: https://joelparkerhenderson.github.io/
Edit to explain abbreviations:
* OKRs = Objectives & Key Results
* KPIs = Key Performance Indicators
* TEAM = Talk, Evaluate, Assist, Motivate
* FOCUS = Frame, Organize, Collect, Understand, Synthesize
These teamwork ideas are worthwhile IMHO. YMMV. :)
However, there's another kind of person who just talks over you, doesn't put in the effort to communicate their ideas, or refuses to accept other ideas. These can remain hidden until tested in the depths of some technical discussion. They might pass a culture fit.
- Denmark at Euro 92. The only world class player, Michael Laudrup, decided he was boycotting the coach. His brother was a fairly decent striker, and future Man Utd legend Peter Schmeichel was in goal, but everyone else was a journeyman.
- Greece at Euro 2004. Nobody from a top team in a top league, but Otto Rehagel managed to coach them to victory. Not amateurs, of course, but certainly not superstars.
- Leicester City last year in the Premiership. Nobody on the team was a real target for a top club, except maybe Schmeichel junior, also in goal. But they played a great season and one of them got voted player of the year. And Vardy beat the scoring streak record. What's interesting is how they fell apart this season under the same coach, who then got sacked and replaced by someone who has partially brought back the magic.
The rest of the time, the winners are built around a small number of world class players, and competent squaddies. This is typical of US teams, where you have a salary cap, meaning the superstars will be spread out, and you need to be efficient in paying for the squaddies that are appropriate for that star's game.
"As you sow, so shall you reap". But few have the patience to sow nowadays. We rather buy ready-made in the grocery store.
There is too much variance (and too much league parity) in the Playoffs short series format.
Moneyball gets you there, where all the gate is gravy.
No, most companies prefer not to make multiyear commitments to employees. They could enter into multi-year contracts with employees (and they do, with execs, with fairly expensive buyout provisions), but they don't want to for most non-executive employees.
The only companies that should be worried about "poaching" are the ones, for example, who are not paying market rate, have crappy projects, provide no career advancement opportunities. I've never heard of a talented employee leaving a company for literally no reason.
1: Which by the way, is a pretty offensive term--we're not deer or wild game owned by some feudal lord.
Well, "only" is implying it's not almost universal. Companies routinely pay market rate for new hires and then base raises and bonuses on KPIs for individuals, teams, or the whole organization.
Are there companies that say, "Well, we had a mediocre year, but market rate for devs went up 8%, so I guess that will be the baseline raise for everyone."? If a company does anything less, eventually employees are paid below market rate and they're forced to negotiate a bigger raise (convincing management to ignore KPIs and pay attention to market rates) or find a new job.
The job market doesn't care if your company had a mediocre year, any more than your suppliers care. If the price of screws or cables goes up 8% you either pay it, look around for something cheaper, or negotiate. Somehow, when it comes to labor, companies think paying “what we paid last year plus N%” makes sense.
I guess the take-away here is: Companies by and large do not worry about poaching. Rather, they are willing to live with it because they see the alternative as too expensive.
Right, that's the point: sports teams benefit from being able to pay below-market rates to players they have developed. If you're doing the standard things to retain talent either way, why not just hire someone skilled?
I'm not arguing about the moral case here. It would be great if companies invested in people out of a sense of responsibility. But I don't think "As you sow, so shall you reap" translates from professional basketball.
They also pay to keep players off the payroll of their competitors. There's not strong incentive to develop the players in those cases.
Put another way, you'll spend less money overall if you can identify, hire, and retain undervalued talent. If you build an exceptional workplace (and pay well) most will want to stay. And if you've done that, it'll be far easier to attract talent in the future.
> and was won against with teams spending over $100 million
What does that mean? They spent less on their teams, and they lost? So they should spend more!
> Once upon a time the ambitions of your company were exceeding the throughput capacity of your development teams. This is the ultimate goal of hiring...
This sentence ends with the ultimate goal, but "this" seems to be referring to the previous sentence, when it really isn't.
> If ambition growth constant
I'm guessing they mean "is" constant?
I think a bit of proof reading might make it easier to follow the argument in this article.
When someone asks me what I think their priority should be as a manager, their day to day job if you will, it is looking for ways to improve this spread of talents to minimize overlap and cover gaps.
The greatest companies are those who offer an atmosphere in which good developers can grow into the best developers. The worst companies are those who believe they can hire people from great companies, and consequently transform into great companies themselves. Great companies produce value; poor companies consume it.
As you said, cultivation of expertise is a better approach, and I'm happy that where I currently work fosters this carefully and deliberately.
After the Disney acquisition, they kept the companies separate, but basically got rid of a bunch of red tape at Disney Animation and injected a bunch of Pixar cultural practices. The DA team went from mediocre results (many people thought Pixar would just shut them down) to producing hit movies.
There is probably some bias, the young guys probably didn't play quite as hard as they would have otherwise, but I'm really not convinced that accounts for the entire story.
Maybe it's just as simple as: interaction effects on teams are often stronger than main effects.
I have led teams that developed software resulting in 4 successful (another subjective word, but in this case, acquired) startups. I designed and implemented 14 products. All together these products were used by hundreds of millions of people. Some of them are still used 10+ years later.
But, I still can't always convince hiring managers to hire me. I don't have a blog (don't care). I don't have a github (don't have time). After being turned down some say that I'm 'too mellow' or that I'm too abstract or too specific or that I didn't answer their questions (usually one specific) the way that they wanted me to. Again, it's all subjective.
At the end of the day, it's just a fashion show. And, when it comes to work, I'm not into fashion (I have a laser focus on the product, its market suitability, its functionality, and and its market success).
Basically, people hire the ones that they like. And, I believe the evidence shows that most managers prefer to hire people who are worse than them, or at least only better in certain ways. Corporations are just glorified hierarchies, remember.
So, if you get turned down a lot, take it as a compliment.
> I have been the best of all of them
Someone with far more practical experience than you might sound paranoid about some things you don't even think about, and blasé about others (because they have ways to mitigate the problem if it actually happens). You won't know enough to realize why they aren't on board with your priorities, and you will make conclusions that have no basis in reality.
You've only known this person for 45 minutes. You've known yourself for decades. Which one are you going to assume is the idiot in this situation? How often are you going to be wrong? And how would you ever know if you were wrong? You just kicked this person out of your life because you didn't like their answer. If they become lead developer at your biggest competitor, are you even going to remember their name?
That's why you see so many posts in this thread like "I worked on the perfect team for a short period, but alas, it was short lived." Building the gestalt is always going to flame out. Right at the moment when you realize you've assembled something special is when your team members start getting traded to the Yankees.
That's why the only sustainable model is culture, culture, culture. Always be striving for the perfect combination of team members. Keep the talent pipeline active, and if you have someone who doesn't fit, get them out of there.
Of course this analogy can be dangerous. Athlete's get paid extraordinary sums, even while sitting on a bench 99% of the season. Whereas many employees have to worry about their own compensation simply to survive, and such selling of culture as a supplement to compensation won't always put food in your mouth (and thus can be exploitative).
Nonetheless, I appreciate your comment, you brought up an interesting view on workplace culture that I never thought about.
The understood narrative is that dummies were choosing players based on broken heuristics and that proper, sober heuristics would uncover hidden value.
Put another way: If you remove human decision-making and replace it with algorithms you will achieve better results.
I am skeptical of that conclusion in every other realm and I don't think baseball (or hiring, as is the case in this article) should be exempt from that skepticism.
Having read MB the book (and seen the movie, for what that's worth) I wonder if Billy Beane is missing the potential for deeper insights that only human brains can put together. It is the thing that we are good at, after all ...
The human brain is also very good at misleading itself. Statistics is how you avoid that.
Do remember that Moneyball happened in an era where statistics was just becoming more ubiquitous. Bill James was collecting and collating statistics from a bunch of volunteers who used to snail mail him the scoring sheets from the games. He only quit doing that in 1988 because suddenly there was a flood of statistics.
So, from weak data to Moneyball in less than 10 years is actually fairly impressive.
And it's taken over every sport thereafter: soccer, hockey, football and basketball.
That can't be used as any form of argument. The ideas behind Moneyball revolutionized baseball. However the financial challenges that Oakland had in the book are still exactly the same today. The reason for their lack of ultimate success is that they gave away their first mover advantage by allowing that book to be written. Now every other team has adopted the Moneyball mindset and Oakland is back to being a cash strapped team with little competitive advantage. Even considering that, they have still been one of the more successful teams when compared to their financial peers.
Not really. We're not talking about computers inventing algorithms from raw data. People typically invent the heuristics and algorithms, so it's still people being clever and creative. They just have computers codify their decisions (i.e., code).
In other words, a spreadsheet didn't come up with the OBP correlation. A spreadsheet was just used to do the analysis more efficiently.
Totally true that. But the title almost suggests you can build a winning team out of a random bunch of average developers.
Although the best developer is an illusion as it doesn't exist as such, just 'building teams' doesn't really say much to me too. I've seen very terrible teams that should have been replaced with just 1 good developer..
Personally I prefer to hire the best fit for the job, whether he or she will be part of a team or not.
Obviously election (selecting people from a group) is hit-or-miss anyway...so maybe reverse-election (eliminating people from a group) could help.
Even as a kid, I realized this was a flawed concept, because it assumed experience and knowledge were fungible. Still, it was fun to think about...
For every 10 attempts (at bats), he "failed" 6.5 times.
Moneyball teams are really about hiring professionals who consistently bat .300.
If each player is batting .300, then the results will compound (more RBIs and runs for the team).
Buuut, then the author starts talking about some corporate-bs mumbo-jumbo "skills matrix". Moneyball is about "black swans" as Nassim Taleb would put it: unexpected outcomes that defy the current knowledge base. In other words, a conclusion that we could not have reached via deduction (but only perhaps abduction).
But that goes completely against the "skills matrix" concept. The whole point of Moneyball is that the Oakland players were flawed given standard metrics -- in fact, most were (very calculated) gambles.
>The final touch is to match these against levels of mastery. A lower level of skill may be someone who is largely uninformed of the subject, a middle level may be someone who can constantly use that skill well, and a high level is someone who is a mentor and thought-leader.
Oh god, he really did miss the point.
>With your new chart you are well prepared to decide where to make an investment. Should you hire for a specific weakness? Which team members get what training? Can we run peer mentorship? Do I have unchallenged experts who have no room to grow? Your answers are straight-forward now.
Yep. Whoosh. The whole idea of a strategy like Moneyball is that answers are not straightforward. Moneyball is all about intuition vs. evidence. In the case of the A's, intuition seemed to trump evidence, but the author keeps telling us to collect more evidence (in the form of matrices, skill trees, or whatever else). Not only is that the categorically wrong approach, it's also not how you build good teams.
According to Podesta: "Subjectivity ruled the day in evaluating players ... We had a completely new set of metrics that bore no resemblance to anything you’d seen. We didn’t solve baseball. But we reduced the inefficiency of our decision making."
From later in :
>"We turn to data as our flashlight in the cave – our guiding light,” DePodesta said. “We said ‘unless we can prove it, we’re not going to believe it.’"...
Essentially, from these articles, it seems that scouting used to be a random occurrence based on the biases (or "intuition") of the scout, and that DePodesta's "innovation" was an attempt to link that process to something measurable. This "innovation" is so obvious in other fields that it's not even mentioned, and that people who depend wholly on unjustifiable random chance deserve punishment and/or ridicule.
Like most things, it boils down to subjectivity, because while you can find ways to quantify and analyze virtually anything, there is still a human who has to make a subjective judgment call as to what quantifications are significant to achieving their end goal. DePodesta says they would make those determinations and then refuse to change the criteria over undefined feeling-based intuition. That's, uh, good, I guess?
So it's not clear why you are saying "In the case of the A's, intuition seemed to trump evidence, but the author keeps telling us to collect more evidence (in the form of matrices, skill trees, or whatever else). Not only is that the categorically wrong approach, it's also not how you build good teams." (Emphasis mine.)
Both the articles you've linked contradict you. Traditional scouting favored intuition over evidence. DePodesta and the Moneyball approach turned that on its head, favoring evidence.
> DePodesta: “We said ‘unless we can prove it, we’re not going to believe it.’"
If anything I think I'm advocating against using "standard metrics", and opting to create ones that are meaningful to what it takes to ship software in your company. Where standard metrics are the ones that result in hiring the traditionally "best" developers.
> corporate-bs mumbo-jumbo
Mumbo? Perhaps. Jumbo? Perhaps not!
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I'm a big fan of having data. What data would you have liked? What collection method would have satisfied you?