Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Only Rule Is It Has To Work

I continue to be on fire with the book selections as of late, this time with the gem The Only Rule Is It Has to Work

This is the fascinating story of a couple of baseball stats guys who persuade the GM of an independent league baseball team to let them run things for a season. They are always experimenting and trying to find talent in what they perceive to be an inefficient market in order to take their team to the top, and they chronicle this journey in their book.

This story hit home for me in two ways. First, I've seen my favourite sports team piss away a decade outside of the playoffs thanks to a closed-minded management group that does not understand stats. When a hobbyist like me can tell they are doing stupid things, they are truly beyond repair. The challenges these guys in the book faced from the conventional-minded former-players-turned-managers-because-they-got-too-old-to-play rang very familiar to me.

Second, I think there are a lot of parallels between the way sports teams are managed and the way money is managed. The guys who can talk the best game, rather than the ones that are actually effective, tend to rise to the top without really earning it. (It is this culture that I sought to avoid becoming a part of when I started my tiny fund 7 years ago with just $400K.) Furthermore, market inefficiencies are abound because a lot of stupid decisions are made.

Someday, I might be interested in participating in something similar to what these guys did. But I'd want to do it as an owner, i.e. from a position of power. The challenges these guys faced make it clear that it's really difficult to change an organization from within: without help from the top, organizations just become the political minefields that promote conventional wisdom, which is not how you win.

If these topics interest you, I highly recommend The Only Rule Is It Has to Work

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