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What Businesses Can Learn from Sports Teams

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 12.37.33 PM“It’s easy to focus on a team’s hotshot, or those with the best numbers who jointly raise their group’s overall performance. But some teams do well because there’s a special alchemy among the team members. Alchemy is intriguing because it’s difficult to pin down. It could come from a team member who’s good at keeping other team members focused, or a member who has an upbeat personality that lifts everybody else’s energy,” according to the MIT Sloan Management Review.

“Fortunately, there’s a way to measure which team members make a group work so well.”

“It’s called ‘plus/minus’ analysis, and it involves looking at not just individual performance but at performance in context — understanding, through data, how a team of people does overall when one person is part of the mix, and when they’re not. It’s a lesson that businesses can borrow from professional sports, where this kind of performance assessment is becoming more common.”

Thomas Davenport wrote about this approach in a must-read recent article, “What Businesses Can Learn From Sports Analytics.” He interviewed more than 30 representatives of teams, sports analytics vendors and consultants and developed five key lessons from that research that almost any business could adopt.

Key takeaway: “Even if a particular player doesn’t generate impressive individual statistics, he may still be invaluable in a game if the team tends to perform much better when he’s playing.”

Deloitte put out a similar report on the topic