Sloan Lecturer Talks Sports Analytics, Success, Data and Gut Instincts

Sports Analytics

MIT Sloan School of Management recently debuted a story by Brian Eastwood about how sports analytics are transforming the way many franchises “make critical personnel and business decisions” within their organizations.

Sloan managerial communication lecturer Ben Shields’ new book, Social Media Management: Persuasion in Networked Culture, explores how business leaders can adapt strategic lessons from the sports industry. One of the key lessons leaders can learn from the sports industry is about creating business cultures that are flexible enough to adapt to new methodologies.

Shields cites a controversial early-2000s decision the Oakland Athletics made to size up potential players and make personnel calls using “new-school analytics” as opposed to time-tested scouting reports. Just 15 years later, this “new-school” approach has become an industry standard. These days, NBA teams use qualitative data derived from wearable technology and eye-in-the-sky cameras to “decide which players to add or drop from a roster” and which ones need “time to rest.”

That said, Shields warns organizations against quarantining its data scientists and rendering the data it mines inaccessible. The name of the game is integration. “You drive change by integrating and using analytics on a daily basis. It’s also important to communicate the meaning of data analysis throughout an organization for maximum impact.”

Shields ultimately believes the success of any sports franchise–or company, for that matter–lies in its ability to combine sports analytics insights with gut instincts. “Even the most ardent analytics supports should be up front about the limitations of analytics. That’s a key part of successful implementation. You must maintain a measured mindset of what analytics can and can’t provide.”


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