BUX Podcast 89: What Business Owners Can Learn From The NFL Draft

Right now the 2013 NFL Draft is happening.  The BUX gang loves the NFL, so we are watching.  We also love UX and business, so we are mashing the two together.

If you don’t know about the NFL Draft, here’s a summary:  Each team picks players that are newly eligible for playing – generally college players.  It’s like the horrible lineup on the playground where captains picked teams ( that might have turned you off to sports to begin with and sorry to bring that up).

The draft is the hiring process for the NFL.  And, it’s all done in public.  And, people do ‘Mock Drafts’ and spill much much ink over before and after the picks.  They measure and quantify the crap out of each and every player.  There is a camp called the combine where the players try out by doing common football skills – jump, 40 yard dash, etc.  This gives each player a massive amount of data when paired with stats of their previous career.

All the owners (and their organizations) take all that data and make million dollar judgements on who to pick and offer a contract.

The connection is that business owners have to make decisions and judgements all the time.  But, do they use the same attention to details and data?  Do they realize they are playing just as complex a game?  If they did, would it change their daily routine?

Also mentioned on the Podcast:

Some teams draft well and those teams are generally the top teams in the NFL.  It’s easy to see where winning players went in the draft.  It’s also easy to see how top draft picks performed.  The impact of the strategy is very clear.

Each of the college players leaves a digital transcript.  Ben calls them ‘Digital Slugs’ (Did I hear that right?) – where all the stats are collected and shared publicly.

“You change what  you measure”

Newman’s private idea:  Is there a historgram of NFL player combine traits?  A histogram seems to be the right way to visualize this type of data.

The draft is systematic strategy from the owners perspective.  The public draft gives us a window into the management of the team.  And, that management is done with gobs and gobs of data.

The different levels of management or action require different levels and types of data.  Coaches look at the effectiveness of plays and the scoreboard.  Owners look at the scoreboard and number of people in the stands.  Coaches don’t care about the stadium attendance and Owners really don’t care about play effectiveness.  Players care about very specific data and asst. coaches other sets of data.  Of course, everyone cares about the scoreboard.

I was drafted 75th overall in the 2012 NFL draft. I have what's called "intangible" or unquantifiable.

Russell Wilson was drafted 75th overall in the 2012 NFL draft. He has what’s called “intangible” or unquantifiable.  He’s like Neo to the NFL’s matrix.  (sorry, getting late!)

New metrics are introduced – Football outsiders.com DVOA and Sabermetrics .  These are metrics that understand the relationship between stats and decision making.  These stats are born of the need to make strategy decisions for the team – like at draft time.

Measure before the decision and AFTER.  Before the draft you measure and analyze to predict success.  After the draft and season, you measure and analyze to verify the strategy is working.  And, to set yourself up for the next draft and season.

“Having a car and assuming it belongs to the mechanic”: An analogy to describe a business owner that has a website (like a car) and wants the mechanic (the web guy) to take ownership or plan strategy.  Business owners don’t engage with online activity and want someone to do it for them – Like tweeting.  Sort of like asking someone to pick up girls for you at a party.

If you think about it – this stuff (Data in Business and the NFL) is COMPLEX!



Final Thought

I gotta be honest – the discussions with Ben here at the BUX Hq always blows my mind.  It’s hard to explain, but I feel that we touch on some very important insights and may be valuable to you.  I can’t judge it. But, you can listen and make a decision for yourself.

PS, the Carolina Panthers got this beast. Y’all ain’t ready!

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