Elite soccer is a multibillion-dollar business, and top clubs are constantly looking for the next promising young player that they can develop into a superstar. Youth academies are one way for clubs to do this, but they have to find the players with potential before they can work with them. Counterpoints talks with Chelsea Football Club’s head of research and innovation, Ben Smith, who is on an analytics-driven hunt for star material.
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What happens when a free-agent player with a hot hand and great stats gets signed to a big, long-term contract, only to perform at a mediocre level? Counterpoints examines the problem of “shirking” in professional sports by looking at the data with Richard Paulsen, who presented his paper, “New Evidence in the Study of Shirking in Major League Baseball,” at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
When teams perform consistently, it’s easy to ascribe their winning (or losing) ways to the coaching staff. But the data sometimes tells a different story. So just how much credit — or blame — for team performance should coaches get? Counterpoints looks at the evidence.
In this episode of Counterpoints, the subject is baseball — specifically, the analytics-centered strategy for pitchers called out-getting, which focuses on pitchers’ efficiency rather than on when, how often, and how much they pitch. Will this practice transform baseball in the classic Moneyball tradition — or will it simply be an interesting tactic that teams sometimes use to gain a temporary advantage?
Now that companies have replaced rigid hierarchies with flatter, more fluid structures to promote agile ways of working, they have also made it harder for employees to chart a path for growth and advancement. This challenge is also a concern for employers, who must — for the sake of engagement and retention — show high performers how they can progress within the organization. Analytics can help highlight opportunities for getting ahead.
The disadvantages of asking people to rate themselves are obvious. For instance: You could fake your way to a higher score, or you might lack self-awareness. But self-report surveys have advantages, too. They make data collection efficient, and nobody but you has 24-7 access to your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. And here’s another benefit many people don’t consider: The act of answering the questions can promote greater self-awareness, which opens the door to self-development.
A good psychometric test can easily outperform a résumé scan and interview at predicting job performance and retention. Yet personality testing and other ways of analyzing potential present some significant challenges: For instance, not all assessments pass the sniff test, and people’s personalities vary from moment to moment, often depending on the challenge at hand. We need a finer-grained understanding of human potential.
Findings don’t have to be earth-shattering to be useful. In fact, obvious insights can help you overcome three barriers to change in your organization: resistance to new data (“But that’s not what my experience has shown”), resistance to change itself (“But that’s the way we’ve always done it”), and organizational uniqueness bias (“That will never work here”). You can also gain trust by confirming what people already believe.
Football players who seem mediocre in college suddenly flourish as top pro performers, while hot prospects flounder when they reach the NFL. Can teams’ recruiters and coaches accurately identify the key players that will help their team win games based on the players’ past performance? In this episode of Counterpoints, Wharton professor Cade Massey, host of “Wharton Moneyball,” argues that they can’t.
This episode of Counterpoints examines the strategic value of data analytics — and more to the point, whether the data scientists creating the analysis are being rewarded appropriately for their contribution to strategy.
While many businesses have embraced the idea that analytics can help improve performance, there are plenty of skeptics. Can analytics really show business leaders something old-fashioned intuition can’t? In this podcast episode, analytics expert Ben Alamar seeks proof that analytics really do lead to improved results.
- Read Time: 4 min
The value of big data is being captured by large companies, but many small businesses are being left behind. One reason: Investors get more data from larger companies, so that’s where they place their bets. Startup and small business owners must think about their data as a new class of economic asset and understand their data helps investors assess them—which affects their ability to raise capital.
In this episode of the sports analytics podcast, Counterpoints looks at the unusual case of Larry Murphy, a right-handed hockey defenseman whose support for Hall of Fame lefthanders helped two teams win the Stanley Cup in the 1990s. Was this outcome due to a unique quality Murphy brought to the game, or does a more general strategy of finding complementary talents improve team performance?
- Opinion & Analysis
- Read Time: 6 min
To improve decision quality, risk management, and leadership development, organizations and teams should record individual expectations when making big group decisions. That may sound like a tall order, especially for a large organization. But interactive dashboards can make the process of gathering and analyzing everyone’s input much less cumbersome, and the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.
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Our research on KPIs suggests there is no clear best practice when it comes to relying on data versus intuition to make strategic decisions.
This episode of the sports analytics podcast Counterpoints shows that the greatest legal advantage in sports is a good night’s sleep. Using wearable devices to monitor athletes’ sleep, physiologists have shown that at least 8 hours of sleep can greatly improve performance — with implications not just for sports, but all areas of business and daily life.
- Read Time: 9 min
Companies can monetize data internally to optimize operations and client services. They can also leverage that data across various client use cases.
- Read Time: 1 min
MIT Sloan Management Review and MIT Sloan School of Management will chat on Twitter (#MITSMRChat) about the intersection of business and sports analytics. Participants will learn how insights from the sports industry can help companies in other industries excel at performance measurement.
A winning record seems like it would help teams draw more fans to their games, yet there’s plenty of evidence that even losing teams can be profitable — sometimes more so than winners. This episode of the sports analytics podcast Counterpoints looks at the problem of selling a product with unpredictable performance by focusing on baseball.
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