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February 2012

On The Money: What Brad Pitt Can Teach Us About Life And Business

The film Moneyball (based on Michael Lewis' book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game), looks at the Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane's (played by Brad Pitt) less conventional approach to the practice of hiring professional baseball players.

While baseball traditionalists tend to hire based on certain criteria (highly athletic hitters and their good looking girlfriends), Beane is convinced there has to be a better way to hire players for teams whose budgets come nowhere near those of other teams in the Major Leagues. He decides that traditional statistical formulations used to gage player success weren't representative of a player's true potential, and starts to build a winning team based on less expensive options. As an example, instead of looking at pitchers with incredible throwing speeds, Beane looked at pitchers who could get more ground outs.

Player attributes that were less focused on looks were often used in Beane's selections. While one player was shunned by the majors due to his odd-looking pitching arm and style, Beane looked at other aspects of his record and decided he was a potential winner. By applying his technique, Beane was able to assemble a winning team that could compete with major competitors fielding huge budgets.

So what does Brad Pitt have to do with life and business?

  • Smart risk taking can have a huge potential payoff. He went against tradition, took a risk in doing so, and won
  • To solve a problem, sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious
  • Using creativity and ingenuity, he transformed his position from being one of having an unfair advantage to that of a winner. He did this by identifying unique strengths in others that the majority of people in his industry dismissed
  • Given a chance, underdogs can turn out to be winners. It takes someone who "thinks outside the crowd" to give them that chance
  • You can't hire people solely based on looks or the fact that they might have some perceived "quirkiness" that doesn't fit the norm. They have other attributes that will make them shine (and make YOU shine too)
  • The greatest form of flattery is imitation - after Beane's success, other Major League teams tried to copy his winning formula

What do you think businesses can learn from the way Billy Beane achieved success? Why does there always seem to be resistance to new ways of thinking - when the people who think differently are often the ones who are able to change the world?

Moneyball

 

 


Storytelling Comes Alive Through "The Artist"

While the new world of Hollywood is filled with special effects, violence and sometimes limited storylines, multiple Academy Award nominee The Artist is a perfect example of how to engage an audience the old fashioned way.

Filmed in black and white and with no dialogue, The Artist proves that with a good story you don't need complicated technology and complex plotlines to create a winner.

Originally I was skeptical at the prospect of seeing a silent film. I'm a fan of Chaplin, but wasn't sure whether "old world" techniques would appeal to a modern day audience. My skepticism quickly faded during the first 15 minutes of the film. Set in Hollywood in the 1920's, The Artist is the story of silent film star George Valentin and his concerns that the arrival of the "talkies" would ruin his career. There's also a subplot surrounding young dancer Peppy Miller and how their worlds eventually end up colliding.

In a nutshell, The Artist proves that what's old can be new again.

So what makes The Artist an example of timely, effective and engaging storytelling?

  1. The story delves into a universal theme that's as relevant in 1920's Hollywood as it is today - fears held by the older generation that their relevence and skills will be outpaced as technology continues to evolve and younger players take over
  2. There's a huge emotional connection to the audience. Although the movie is silent, the audience is transported into the story through cinematography, the looks and actions of the actors and the music. Classic storytelling. At some points in the movie, there wasn't a dry eye in the house
  3. The movie made you laugh. Thanks in part to canine star "Uggie", the movie was highly comedic. Comedy vs. tragedy - universal themes in storytelling that have the effect of playing with the audience in an effort to entertain and inspire
  4. The movie was filmed in black and white. This added a magical and mysterious element to the story that transcended any other method of modern day filmmaking

The Artist received 10 Academy Award nominations next to Martin Scorsese's highly acclaimed Hugo (11 noms). While worldwide audiences will have to wait until the Academy Awards show on February 26, in my mind The Artist is already a winner and shining example of how lack of dialogue combined with music, incredible acting, universal storytelling and award winning cinematography can win both critial acclaim as well as the hearts and minds of global audiences.

Do you think The Artist is a great example of engaging storytelling? Why? If not, why not?

Uggie