The Cubs Paradigm – Human Centered Analytics Builds Teams that Win

_92235565_baseballLike the American Dream, “success” comes in many flavors, as richly varied as the people hunting it:

For corporations, success is an ever-expanding end state to reach and build from – a booming bottom line and a bright future full of growth.

For non-profits, success means moving the needle on your cause, whether it’s blocking harmful policy, fostering good laws or building a coalition for change.

For the Chicago Cubs, the definition was more specific: Wipe out a 108-year losing streak by beating every other team in U.S. Major League Baseball to reach – and win – the World Series.

What’s interesting – and instructional for companies looking to drive their organizations effectively through the current analytics-rich competitive environment to success – is the playbook that Cubs’ president Theo Epstein followed on the team’s 2016 drive to victory.

Human Centered Analytics

 The secret was in how he built the Cubs’ team to begin with: Following principles laid out in the “Moneyball” approach described in Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, Epstein had used analytics on player data to reshape the Boston Red Sox bench more than a decade earlier.

Under Epstein, the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years in 2004, and repeated the victory in 2007.

Epstein joined the Chicago Cubs in 2011 and again used analytics to assemble a team of unlikelies – a mélange of valued incumbents, MVP-grade youngsters, recovering former failures and show-pony free-agents.

The first iterations lost horribly. The 2012 Cubs finished 61-101, their worst season since 1966. The 66-96 record in 2013 was scarcely better.

But then the team began to climb out, and this year saw a winning streak that culminated in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball games ever played – the extra-innings, Series-clinching, curse-breaking Game 7 on November 2.

The secret was in the people. It lay not in their individual stats, but in the way they worked closely together under pressure for a purpose.

Analytics, along with considerable athletic and management talent, helped formulate that winning mix.

Team-building for agility

Today, forward-thinking companies are creating teams purpose-built for success, by selecting employees who can work closely together for the best possible “network performance.”

In short, they are bucking traditional, hierarchical team structures in favor of focused, task-oriented team dynamics.

In 2014’s “Networks: How Collective Leadership Really Works,” the Center for Creative Leadership breaks down “the power of embracing leadership as a shared process” into these critical steps:

  • Increase the collective capacity for leadership in your organization or community.
  • Enable others to step up, adjust, and make decisions about the future of your project, team, organization, or community.
  • Transform the leadership culture from reliance on command-and-control hierarchies to adaptation within agile, interdependent networks.

we-live-in-a-vuca-world-2-638 Ad-hoc team-building is slowly pushing aside the traditional notion of time-driven workflows handled by siloed, hierarchical teams. This strategy is well-suited to a planet increasingly dominated by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).

Companies that adopt this nimbler focus stand a better chance of surviving and thriving in an increasingly chaotic and fickle consumer marketplace than will those seeking growth and stability by managing existing and often dysfunctional structures.

The best network-performance leaders turn out to be not necessarily the ones with amazing track records, but those with the best potential. As a 2009 study by the Korn/Ferry Institute pointed out,

Successful executives have strong and active learning patterns from key job assignments. They learn faster, not because they are more intelligent, but because they have more effective learning skills and strategies. They were learning agile.

In contrast, the unsuccessful executives (many of whom had been very successful for many years and had experienced many of the same key assignments) derailed, because they did not learn from their jobs. They underestimated the novelty of new challenges and performed as they had performed previously. The ability to learn from experience is what makes and develops expert leaders.

We have the tools

 So how can businesses identify these flexible fast learners, the ones with the best potential, the ones most likely to lead – and co-lead – their teams to success?

At Veebit, we are building a human-centered analytics platform to do just that. We make technology for measuring and understanding the metrics of individual and team success.

Up front, Veebit’s proprietary psychometrics platform delivers simple questionnaires: In just minutes, these surveys measure the respondent’s intrinsic values, attitudes and aptitude related to everything from interpersonal and team interactions, problem solving skills and mental agility, to governance, social issues and the economy.

veetypeThe user’s resulting Value Profile reveals something not seen in your resume or recommendations: It shows, at a glance, who you are.

By correlating these data on our back end with our corporate clients’ existing success metrics, we help companies connect the dots:

  • What are your KPIs for departments, practices and people?
  • Which job roles or team dynamics drive those KPIs?
  • Now:
    • What kinds of people have ridden those roles to the greatest success?
    • What are the most successful teams you have built around those people?
    • How could you restructure your company and your business around those successful players and teams for your current goals to deliver even greater success and reshape your future?

This practice of human-centered analytics brings talent-acquisition, performance management and strategic planning under one powerful roof.

By helping businesses identify high-potential workers and craft higher-performing teams, Veebit’s technology gets to the heart of the Cubs’ winning equation: human chemistry that delivers victory.

This fluid, focused approach is perfect for today’s burgeoning “gig economy.” Baristas with BAs, engineers driving Uber, accountants augmenting their income with WordPress jobs on the side – these are the new foot soldiers, increasingly hired on a per-contract basis.

But as companies chase a better bottom line with off-shoring, decentralization and flexible workforces, they are seeing the slow, corrosive loss of institutional knowledge.

What’s that you say? You plan to store institutional knowledge in your existing managers?

Great. Now you have to burn hours not only showing new hires the ropes but also waiting for them to get up to speed on all the important stuff – and then hoping they turn out to be productive team members.

By using Veebit’s platform to pre-screen staff and new hires for the best possible network performance, companies can conserve energy they might have lost in the VUCA-fied, gig-economized shuffle.

And that guarantees that smart, human-focused managers will have that much more fuel left to build winning teams and chase success – whatever flavor it might be.

(Curious? Contact us to learn more.)