At the Oscars, putting my money(ball) on the risk-takers

Sunday night is the Oscars. I won’t watch too much of it – it’s all relative since watching 25% of it will still equate to an hour or so – but that doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in the outcomes. For this year a special movie, one dealing with sports, is under consideration for some major awards.

Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, tells the unlikely story of a not-so-successful player who eventually becomes the general manager of a Major League Baseball team and takes an unconventional approach – using analytics – to solve an age-old problem, i.e. winning in sports.

The idea of making Michael Lewis’ best-selling book into a movie seemed a bit strange. “How do you make statistics sexy?” was the common refrain. Well the answer was you don’t. The movie is not about statistics. It is about risk-taking, finding a way to overcome difficult circumstances and the sometimes overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom. “Do it that way?” is the type of question hurled at those who try to be different, either out of need or want.

Having belief in those people, ideas, or strategies others have downplayed, or worse, completely ignored takes a certain amount of courage. That type of courage and risk-taking is what we admire amongst entrepreneurs, the creative folks who see past what is “the norm” to build a new model for success. Often that new model comes with added benefits, such as new opportunities for the previously ignored in a market/profession.

In sports we love the underdog story. In business, we love to hear about the up and comer. And it movies, we love the film that comes out of nowhere to win our hearts and our admiration. In all three cases we are moved beyond our comfort zone to ponder what we can do to challenge conventional wisdom. Sports, on the field and off, give us numerous ways of doing that. We just have to have the courage to embrace the opportunity.