Ford recently wrote an article for my favorite website, Grantland.com, about how teams have evolved in the ways they evaluate potential selections. They rely much more on spreadsheets and sophisticated statistical formulas and much less on face-to-face contact with the players.
Has it worked? Ford provides a compelling argument that it hasn’t. Between 1990 and 1999, when the process was a lot more personal, 37 percent of all lottery picks (players taken within the first 11-14 picks, depending on the year) turned out to be All-Stars, while 31 percent were busts. In the past decade, when the process has become a lot more analytical and impersonal, just 21 percent of all lottery picks turned into All-Stars while a whopping 42 percent are draft busts. Even though teams are spending more money, they are having much less success at identifying the best players.
This all reminds me of when the Huntsman School had Roger Martin come for a Dean’s Convocation last September. Martin, who is the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, spoke about design thinking. Design thinking combines the best of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. A business that can find the appropriate balance between the two will continually experience innovation and will have a constant advantage over its competitors.
Martin did not discount the importance of analytical thinking, and neither did Ford in the aforementioned article. But there is so much more to making important decisions than quantifiable statistics. We can make the best decisions when we combine what we have diligently analyzed with intuitive thinking.