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What have baseball and Hollywood got to do with business schools?

If you haven’t see the recent Brad Pitt film, MoneyBall, then you might well ask this question.  In the film, Brad Pitt, uses data to turn the Oakland Athletics, in to one of the best baseball teams in the USA, even though he has only a fraction of the budget of the ‘big’ teams to spend on players.

At one point in the movie, Brad Pitt’s character, asks his colleagues at the Oakland Athletic’s what is the question they should be asking?  The question is how can they compete when they don’t have the budget of the big teams, a question that many business school Deans must ask themselves over and over again, whenever the rankings are published.

The answer for Brad Pitt comes from a young Yale Economics graduate who shows him that he’s trying to recruit the wrong players.  Instead, using player performance data, he can recruit a different type of player at a fraction of the cost of those he thought he needed.  Without wanting to spoil the film too much, the strategy works.

For many business school Deans the pressure is on to set up and run a successful and sustainable MBA programme, but to do it on a fraction of the budget that Harvard has.  The answer is to understand the marketplace better, to do some market research, find out what makes tomorrow’s students tick and what type of graduate to deliver to help businesses be successful in the future.  And then, to position their business school in a clear, compelling and competitive way that attracts the best.  In this case, the message of the film is you can use data to drive winning performance rather than perceptions gained from experience.

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