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Over-relying on Data

Data is more than just power. Organisations across all industry verticals are upgrading their data management systems, investing in new resources, and using their rich databases to streamline the practices of their departments. Indeed the message from experts is clear: organisations that fail to adapt and evolve to meet the emergence of big data, face the prospect of falling behind. As with any phenomenon, however, there are lessons to be learnt. 

The way data is being used in sports is a poignant example. Moneyball, the popular book inspired by Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane, explained the core philosophy of the manager’s vision for the baseball team: using statistical analysis to maximise player acquisition and performance with a low budget. 

The Moneyball philosophy had huge ramifications for the sporting world. People started adopting variants of it in all sports – from soccer to basketball to football. Arguably the most noticeable application of Beane’s philosophy was by Andy Flower, the former England cricket coach. Flowers was known for his admiration of Beane’s work, and he too would use statistical analysis to not only determine who would be on the field but also what decisions players should make once they were selected and enjoyed notable victories also. Both of them have stood by data analytics and the benefits it can bring. Yet, what is often untold is that data was both a virtue and a vice for both men.

His 5-0 defeat at the Ashes last year was one of England’s most disappointing performances to date. As commentators suggested, it was a classic case of overreliance on data, replacing intuition with numbers, and allowing data to dictate rather than inform. Flower ultimately got the balance between trusting people and numbers wrong. He was in good company, those who thrive will not be those who use data most—but those who use it most smartly. But data is emphatically not a substitute for intuition and flair - either in the office or on the cricket field.

These instances of sports analytics are particularly relevant for organisations looking to add big data analytics to their existing operations. The example of Beane and Flower show how data does not have all the answers, and relying too heavily on it can have devastating effects.

Read more at: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/724435.html

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