The Academy Awards and business analytics

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A year ago I wrote a similar blog as this one based on my finding the acceptance speeches at Hollywood’s Academy Awards to be inspirational. The speeches I enjoy most are Oscar recipients who thank the teams that contributed to their receiving the award. Success comes much more from teams than from an individual’s performance. This is my update for the 2012 best film nominees.

My favorite acceptance speeches are from Oscar recipients in science and technology. In contrast to actors, directors and writers, these winners love pushing the envelope in fields like animation, special effects, costume design and sound editing. They are like NASA engineers enjoying the thrill of landing an astronaut on the moon or placing a telescope in orbit that can provide facts that answer questions that so many of us are interested in the answers.

How do film awards relate to implementing business analytics projects?

There is a tight connection between Oscar winners and project teams implementing business analytics and enterprise performance management methodologies (EPM). Examples of EPM are customer profitability analysis, driver-based rolling financial forecasts, strategic scorecards, and operational dashboards. Each EPM methodology is imbedded with business analytics of all flavors, such as regression and correlation analysis. Project teams also enjoy success seeing their business analytics and EPM solutions go live and being leveraged for employees to gain insights, make better decisions and align work activities and priorities with the executive team’s strategy.

Here are few examples of the Academy Award nominees with these connections:

  • Moneyball – In this film Brad Pitt performs as the general manager of Oakland Athletics baseball team in a true story. It is about how he was faced with a very limited budget for player salaries compared to the big budget trams, like the New York Yankees. In desperation he turned to a statistician who understood that the superior indicators for winning games were not the traditional ones like a player’s batting average but rather more insightful ones related to getting players on base and advancing them to score runs and win. This film has arguably given analytics more visibility to analytics than any other film.
  • The Artist – In this film about a silent film star whose career declines when sound is added to film as talkies. He reinvents himself with exceptional dancing skills to become a star again. The connection to analytics is that when traditional solutions become less effective, and even ineffective, one must shift to alternative and better ways to solve problems. On a personal career basis, one may have get educated and trained in new methods that are different from what previously advanced their career.
  • The Descendants – In this film the actor George Clooney plays a father whose marriage failed and divorced. When his ex-wife unexpectedly dies he takes responsibility for his two teenage children who had been living with their mother. The children are initially rebellious, and he is able to tame them with love. The parallel to analytics is that when analysts are faced with executives and managers who are resistant to being receptive to new ways, are adverse to taking risks, or cannot adjust to new circumstances (e.g., market changes or new aggressive competitors), analysts must use behavioral change management techniques to get their buy-in and acceptance.
  • The War Horse – In this film that begins a few years before World War I in Scotland due to his family’s dire financial situation a boy is forced to sell his horse. As the years pass and the boy and the horse, still separated, both show exceptional strength fighting in the war. They are miraculously reunited at the end. We learn how perseverance and hope can lead to victory. The parallel to analytics is that analysts and passionate middle managers should never give up on believing in and proving that what they do will lead to success.
  • The Iron Lady – In this film the actress Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher’s braking through social class and gender barriers to become the United Kingdom’s first prime minister. The parallel to business analytics is that analysts must always assess who they are attempting to influence and how to exhibit leadership through their own ideas.
  • Hugo – This film directed by Martin Scorsese tells the tale of Hugo who is an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. When Hugo encounters a broken machine, an eccentric girl, and the reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a magical and dream-like adventure. The parallel is that everyone’s professional career is also an adventure. Like Hugo who exhibits fearless courage in the film, those who are brave and have nerve can help their organization attain superior performance. I have always felt that being a dreamer is integral to being innovative.

Implementing business analytics and EPM methodologies is a challenge that requires teamwork. The most motivating Oscar acceptance speeches for me are not self-serving but rather are speeches that humbly acknowledge that the collective effort of a team makes the difference.

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