How the underdog can come out on top

BOOK REVIEW: Moneyball analyses how to build a winning team with limited resources (it works, just look at Leicester City).

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2016

The biggest and richest guys always win, right? Stands to reason. Except sometimes limited resources can inspire a clever route to success. This is the story behind Moneyball, a hugely popular and influential tale of an underdog coming out on top.

Billy Beane was the general manager of the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team, struggling to match the spending power of other competitors. By adopting a new approach to game strategy and the available data on players - and baseball is a sport driven by and obsessed with statistics - he and his colleagues spotted some deeply undervalued assets and built a new and winning team.

Read more: What giant-killing Leicester City's 5000-1 title teaches us about talent

The book achieved the unlikely feat of making analytics cool and exciting (so much so that it was made into a film starring Brad Pitt in 2011). Its lessons are that conventional wisdom should always be questioned, and that the intelligent interrogation of data can throw up unexpected and unimagined answers. Soon managers were asking themselves whether there wasn't a 'moneyball' approach to be taken in their line of work. What secrets were lurking in the data that might offer a competitive edge?

And as well as in business, other sporting ventures have taken Lewis' analysis to heart. Leicester City football club displayed some nifty moneyball prowess of its own last season, with impressive results - pun intended.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis is published by WW Norton, 2003

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern


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