Tuesday, September 18, 2012


It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.  Herman Melville

When it comes to cinema, I take mine late and free on the home TV (unless there are lots of special effects). So, I finally got around to watching Moneyball yesterday.

There's not a more appropriate movie for a blog on change and innovation than Moneyball. If you have not seen it, stop reading this and watch it.

It was so obvious to write about Moneyball that I assumed lots of other people had. A quick google search proved that to be the case. Everyone cheered Moneyball as a model for innovation. They could be paraphrased as 'Just adapt these half dozen lessons from the movie to your organization and, BOOM, you get innovation.'

Don't do it!

While innovation played a role in Moneyball and anyone who has tried to change an organization will see the patterns of resistance that were displayed on the screen, I certainly would not use Moneyball as a template for innovation.

The simple reason is imitation - the A's had a great season, or two, and a few OK seasons, and then returned to the bottom of the bottom as others copied their actions.

The inability of the A's to protect their intellectual property, a new process for assembling a professional baseball team, was disappointing. They could have hidden their selection criteria creating a trade secret or filed for a patent on the process for assembling a professional baseball team. I would have copyrighted computer code for determining the optimal players and licensed it.

They also failed to continue a process of innovation which could have maintained their advantage.

Now, maybe, these attempts to protect the intellectual property and continue to innovate would have failed. That certainly does not mean that the A's should not have undertaken the changes shown in the movie. It does, however, mean that as a model for innovation, it could BE different.

(I don't know if Moneyball is an accurate accounting of what happened to the A's. It's Hollywood, so I assume it has a lot of embellishments. But my point is the same either way).

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