Friday, March 23, 2012

Moneyball and the Answers to Life's Problems

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Category: Drama
A friend of mine was so upset at the ending of this movie, his advice to me was to turn off the audio at the end of the movie. I'm glad I didn't. I'd miss out on the most important part of the movie. It's the part that changes the movie from what it appears to be into something better, something bigger than the sum of the parts of movie. The M.Night ending, if you must. The Sixth Sense kind.
You've probably have read that some movies are referred to as 'rides'. This means that they are like rides at an amusement park. You get on it with great anticipation. It feels great while riding it. You walk away from the ride excited. But in 5 minutes, you'd forget about it and probably moved on to the next ride.
Moneyball can be enjoyed as 'ride' movie. You can take it as the story of the underdog baseball team, going against all odds to achieve greatness. Only problem is, that wasn't the whole movie. The odds were stacked up against them. But they were largely internal or of their own making. And they didn't win at the end. Yes, they wrote themselves into the history books. But they didn't win their last game. They didn't win the game that would have ended the movie on a high note.

It can be argued that the movie is about the enduring hardships of a small team and ends on the romance of baseball, the principles of one man and the spirit of resilience and steadfastness. If you take it like that, the movie is easier to understand than The Natural.
I think that the movie can also be seen as the struggle of one man, Billy Bean, the General Manager of the Oakland A's baseball team, to build a winning team using whatever little resource he has. He has to find players that would give him any advantage against the opposing team. He uses individual player's strength in the areas he needed them rather than view their strength as a whole. He breaks down the game itself to the basic factors that will make wins and find the players that will do just those. Along his way, he finds that he is up against those who do not share his vision but he remains steadfast. Billy learns to stand up against the baseball establishment's ideas of what win ballgames in pursuit of his own vision.

So is what the movie is really about? It is one man's journey. His journey in finding the answers to the question, "Am I asking the right question?"  To me this ties to Step 2 of the 5 steps to Problem Solving. The question itself is a tool. It can be used to reveal the understanding of team members of the problem and help them define it. It provides focus to the people on identfying or creating the goals that need to be achieved to solve the problem.
In the movie, Billy Bean asks the question in the meeting room in an effort to get people to think about the problem, He wants them to define the problem and understand it before jumping to a solution. He wants the people around him to know what the true goal is and work torwards solving that and to not jump to knee-jerk solutions or simply do what is normally done. He uses the question as a training tool to get his inexperienced assistant GM to focus on dealing and solving the problem. Finally, he turns the question on himself to guide him to make the right decision at a turning point in his life. Clue: It has to do something with the song at the end of the move.
Figure it out and therein lies the greatness of this movie.

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