Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Data is the modern world's most beautiful excuse.

It allows leaders to make decisions and, if they don't work out, say the data ate their homework.

One of the saddest parts -- at least in some eyes -- is how much data has invaded sports.

Major League Baseball teams no longer feel the need to pay a lot of money for managers. 

Instead, they have infinitely clever Harvard graduates with infinitely inventive technology that can simply tell the managers -- and players -- what to do.

It's odd, indeed, that every team doesn't win all the time. Perhaps some swing algorithmic bats better than others.

Please don't think the NFL is immune from such data-driving. From recruitment to game strategy, the nerds are ready to tell everyone they're wrong.

You might imagine, then, that the most successful coaches would embrace the computer-generated information a lot more tightly than they embrace their players.

Yet when the most successful football coach of the era -- Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots -- was asked how much he relies on analytics for big decisions, he gave a curious response.

No, I don't much like his miserably smug face any more than you do.

I would have imagined, though, that he uses at least some data to get the slightest advantage over his opponent.

Yet, as ESPN reported, Belichick gave this response when asked about how much he used data in important game situations: 

Less than zero.

Ah.

So not even zero, but less than zero. Rather than ignore it, he's positively antagonistic toward it. At least that's in character, some might grunt.

It appears, then, that beneath that furrowed Belichick brow there doesn't lurk an encyclopedic knowledge of every such situation over the last 35 years.

Extraordinarily, the coach went on to explain what he meant: 

I'm not saying it's a gut thing. It's an individual analysis based on the things that are pertinent to that game and that situation. I don't really care what happened in 1973 and what those teams did or didn't do. I don't really think that matters in this game -- or '83 or '90, pick out whatever you want.

There's surely a certain wisdom to this.

The belief that certain organizations or individuals may have certain tendencies has long pervaded both sports and business.

What Belichick seems to feel is that what truly matters is the current situation and all the little factors that have influenced this one game.

No analytics are going to tell you that the opposing cornerback looks like he's carrying an injury.

No analytics will tell you that one of your own linemen has been slow to the block or that your quarterback seems to have a sudden, in-the-game-today blind spot for throwing to his left.

So many human influences affect decisions that analytics can't possibly define and quantify them all. (Even if it thinks it can.)

Indeed, one of the saddest aspects of modern analytics is their desperate attempt to post-rationalize. 

One of the happiest is that 82-year-olds are suddenly being hired as baseball coaches again.

If you run a business, it's fine to look at the data. It's no so fine to allow the data to dictate.

You're the leader because, presumably, you're supposed to have some skills in the leadership area. 

You're being paid for your judgment, not for your slavishness to the rhythm of the numbers.

By the way, Belichick says he really likes math.

Published on: Oct 2, 2019
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