Moneyball and Grain Marketing: If Brad Pitt Managed Your Farm, What He'd Tell You About Getting on Base

But does he

I recently re-watched the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I’d seen this many years ago and remembered it as being a pretty good movie. I’d forgotten just how good the story was. I had also remembered it mostly as a story about the Oakland A’s baseball team and how they put together a 20-game winning streak. 

As I watched it this time around, I couldn’t help but be struck by some of the revolutionary thinking in the organization. They really changed the way that baseball was thought of by those in Management. They focused on what was important, as well as what wasn’t important. I was found an article online about how the real story was an amazing and painful, lesson in Organizational Change.

There is a scene early on in which Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) explains to Billy Beane (Brad Pitt’s character) that the problem with the way EVERYONE in Management was approaching baseball was all wrong. They were all chasing the next superstar player. Peter Brand believed that they shouldn’t be buying players.  Brand argued they should be trying to buy wins and the best way to do that was to get “hits.”

Simply put; just get on base. The more times you get on base the greater the odds that you score. The more scores, the more wins.

Later in the movie as the team began to rally together, manager Billy Beane helps players understand the small differences in what they were now trying to do as opposed to what the players had learned to believe in their careers.

One of the players said, “but, you’re paying me to steal bases,” to which Billy Beane responds, “No, I’m paying you to GET ON BASE, not get thrown out at 2nd.”

I started to think about all of this in terms of marketing grain. Many of us have learned over our lifetime that if we just sit back and wait, something good might come along and save us, and that we’ll be able to hit a home run if we’re just patient enough. 

It occurs to me, that like major league baseball, we should really consider changing the way we strategically think about marketing grain. Look for a base hit. Just get on base. I’ve told some people that there is a reason they aren’t good at marketing grain. I also tell them that there is a reason why they ARE good at growing crops. They LIKE to grow crops, and they HATE marketing grain. So, every chance that they get to learn something new, they gravitate toward learning how to grow crops better. And they AVOID the thing they hate, marketing grain. It’s easy to see, and point out, but it is very difficult to change. I’ve gone as far as to tell a couple of people that they should just quit trying to get better at marketing grain. Just STOP. 

And then, give that responsibility to someone else in the organization. Let your son, your wife, your daughter, or daughter in law have that responsibility. THEN GET OUT OF THEIR WAY. And, also realize, they are going to make mistakes. You already know that you have made plenty. Let them, because that is when they are really going to learn. You go ahead and keep learning about fertility, hybrids, machinery, new farming techniques, and let them spend their time learning about marketing grain. 

So, if you get a chance, watch that movie again sometime. Try to absorb some of the lessons from the story. I think we’re going to need a lot of base hits the next year or two. Quit trying to hit the homerun. Just get on base, either learn one new marketing alternative this year OR find someone to do the thing you already hate doing.