September 20, 2020

People Don't Like It When You Go Against The Grain

There's nothing more interesting in my work than when I tell a client they need to implement a Welcome Program. A few years ago I spoke at a conference and the contempt from the audience could be felt from my vantage point at the podium.

  • "Walmart doesn't do that and they're kind of successful so I don't think we're taking advice from a blogger in Arizona, k-thx."
I'm frequently asked what I read. I read a lot of content from the world of sports ... why, you ask? Because in sports you get to publicly see people who go against the grain, get absolutely blasted/pummeled by the pundits who know everything and have a Twitter account to demonstrate their brilliance, and then overcome everybody and have success and then their ideas are quietly adopted by the same pundits.

Want examples?


Bryson Dechambeau won the US Open golf championship this weekend by six (6) shots (that's like winning the Super Bowl by 6 touchdowns), overwhelming the competition by out-driving everybody. He changed his entire body over the off-season, after implementing an unusual form of analytics to attack a golf course (click here). Predictably, pundits / purists HATED all of it. Too bad ... he's on top of the world of golf now and pundits / purists are figuring out how to play catch-up. I mean, read the darn article. He hires a statistician and a coach, and those two work together to figure out how to decimate the competition by leveraging what Mr. Dechambeau is good at. Do you do that with your statistician? Do you even bother to work with data scientists? Do you have a COACH? Seriously - how many Executives have a COACH that they work with?


The Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA are in the playoffs. And while every team under the sun is adopting the analytics-based view that you must shoot 3 point shots, this team is doing the opposite. Oh, they're applying analytics alright, but they are shooting 2 POINT SHOTS instead (click here). They're also doing stuff that is unheard of. Instead of passing the ball after a rebound to a point guard, they're just dribbling the ball up the court (quickly), creating an immediate fast break opportunity as a typical point guard instead fills a wing position, allowing the team to immediately attack a defense. They get a ton of easy two-point shots that are made at a higher percentage, causing the expected value of a two-point shot to exceed the expected value of a three-point shot ... plus you get fouled a lot driving to the basket, allowing you to make free throws at 75%.
  • Short Two Point Shot = 65% chance of making the shot * 2.0 points = 1.3 expected points.
  • Two Free Throws = 75% chance of making a free throw * 1.0 points * 2 shots = 1.5 expected points.
  • Three Point Shot = 40% chance of making the shot * 3.0 points = 1.2 expected points.
Multiply that out over a hundred possessions and you end up an extra 10 points a game. Oh.


Down here in Arizona, the Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start, running an offense mastered by a head coach that has roots in the Air Raid system used in college ... a system that PRO PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY HATE (click here). Now armed with a 2nd year quarterback and arguably a top-five wide receiver, the offense has sprung to life. Granted - this may not last the whole season ... but it could also get better, yes, better. And when pundits and purists are wrong, they don't step up to the microphone and tell you they were/are wrong, they just move on ... quietly.


Last year the world of Pickleball was rocked by a new Championship Team (click here). What was unusual about the winning team (watch the video here)?
  • It was a mother / daughter team.
  • The Mom was +/- 40 years old.
  • The Daughter was 12 years old.
Yeah, 12 years old. I charted every point from the Championship Match. They played an aggressive, assertive, offensive style of high-speed pickleball that you typically only see from beginning players ... adapted to the highest possible level of skill in the sport. They basically reinvented the game on the fly and beat the world in the process. And going forward? They want to play faster, more aggressively, and more offensively. Anybody who has ever played pickleball knows how terrifying the prospects of that are.


All examples demonstrate people who went against the grain and succeeded. Sure, tons of people go against the grain and fail miserably ... and those examples get shoved in our faces daily as DON'T DO THAT examples that allow pundits / purists to maintain control over an industry. Ask Ron Johnson (click here).

These folks do things differently. They've got people who analyze things differently. They have coaches who implement ideas differently. 

It's almost like a Coach / Statistician / Analyst role might be an important new role in a company looking for a different path into the post-COVID future we're all trying to figure out?

Hmmmmmmmmm.


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