Posts Tagged ‘Gary Vaynerchuk’

Michael Lewis’ baseball-book-that’s-not-really-about-baseball, Moneyball, has gotten plenty of attention in recent weeks since it’s been made into a feature film starring Brad Pitt. The book suggests that it’s statistical data (and hardcore crunching of that data) that allows us to make the best decisions–not our gut instincts, strong as they may be.

Moneyball ruined, or at least changed, the way many baseball fans enjoyed baseball. We could no longer praise our favorite player for being a dynamite fielder or a clutch hitter when the game was on the line, because if we took a closer look at the newfangled stats we’d realize our perception was nowhere near reality. It was like having a favorite restaurant but knowing that if you went into to its kitchen and saw something gross, you’d never be able to eat there again.

But it also taught us not to take things at face value. That before we make a decision based on what the supposed experts say, maybe we should see what the data says, too. Or, as John Cusack says in High Fidelity, “I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.”

Oddly enough, my thinking about Moneyball the last few weeks had nothing to do with the hoopla surrounding the movie. It was actually another author, Gary Vaynerchuk, in his book The Thank You Economy. Vaynerchuk, a wine expert and social media guru with a book deal, stresses the importance of  about caring more about your customers than your competitors do as one of the biggest keys to any successful business venture. (And this is done largely through social media channels.)

At conference last year, an audience member asked Vaynerchuk what he says when someone can’t get past the fact that the efficacy of social media isn’t really quantifiable. His response: “If you do not understand what the monetary, financial value of having a relationship with the customer is, you have no fucking idea what business is about.”

Great answer. In his books, Vaynerchuk says lots of stuff like this. You can’t measure how much you care about your customer, same as you can’t measure the emotional impact that caring has on the customer, but you just know it works. Great business practices, he says, produce great business. Makes sense, I guess. But as I read on, I got to thinking. Vaynerchuk is an undoubtedly progressive thinker. However he’s also suggesting we trust our instincts, not the numbers. How un-Moneyball-like!

Steve Jobs was once asked about how much market research went into the iPad.  “None,” he said. “It’s not the customers’ jobs to know what they want.” Arrogantly but correctly, he purported to know more than anyone else what was best. Same as Vaynerchuk, Jobs trusted his gut more than the data.

The other school of thought, as suggested in books like Peter Sims’ Little Bets, is that if you can cheaply and quickly test an idea, it’ll allow you to tweak a good idea until it’s great or rule out a bad idea all together. An example Sims’ uses is comedian Chris Rock, who practices his new stand-up material in small nightclubs rather than assuming it’ll be funny simply because he’s Chris Rock. Some of his new jokes are OK, some are really funny, but many of them stink. But by the time he pieces together an act using the best material from his “market research” and shedding the rest, he’s got the whole room laughing again.

There is, of course, no right answer. It’s hard to argue with the methods of anyone who’s reached the top of their field–they obviously knew enough to have gotten there in the first place, right?

Each of us has to do a little research (or not) to find our own style. What’s yours?

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