360 Talent Solutions

Extracts from the The Science of Dream Teams by Mike Zani

Using extracts from the early chapters of The Science of Dream Teams by Mike Zani, I explore how science is replacing intuition in HR and talent strategy, and how the process of talent optimization can result in your team hitting more ‘home runs’ with their performance.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Moneyball for HR – Science vs Intuition

The Science of Dream Teams is a must-read for all business leaders, and indeed HR and recruitment professionals. The author Mike Zani is CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures, make objective hiring decisions and inspire greatness in people.

In writing this book, Zani draws comparisons between the current data revolution in HR to the early 2000s data revolution in baseball – illustrated by the film Moneyball. If you have not seen the film, it is based on Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane who turned his team’s fortune around using a radical data-driven approach.

The Data Revolution

In 2001, General Manager Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s lose to the Yankees in the playoffs and then lose three of their best stars.  How can Beane field a competitive team when the A’s player salaries total less than a third of the rich teams’?

Beane launched an HR revolution in baseball!

He hires Peter Brand, a recent Yale graduate who overhauls the entire A’s approach to talent evolution and introduces Bill James’s statistical approach. Brand’s innovative approach to talent is based on data-driven decisions to acquire new players and manage the team roster.

Just like Beane, all major companies now use data and data analysis to optimize their business functions. We are seeing first-hand how technology and data are disrupting different business functions such as advertising, marketing, logistics, and R&D.

Yet HR had been left out; they were the last kid to be chosen to play, last to bat, and had to field at right field. “Human resources, lacking modern tools and data, has remained largely impervious to science. Until recently, it’s been a backwater of by-the-gut thinking”.

“Moneyball turned baseball from a business run on folk wisdom and gut instinct into a science.” 

Up until recently, HR decisions have largely been based on intuition and gut feeling, which is not an effective predictor of job performance and opens the door up to bias. “Not all managers are equally gifted. And each one, good or bad, is also attached to an ego and a background. These create biases.”

Science Is Replacing Intuition

For most positions, hard skills are quantifiable and can easily be measured and compared. However, as technology continues to disrupt the workforce by automating tasks, future jobs will be heavily defined by soft skills. Soft skills in essence are personal habits and traits (behavior) that shape how you work both on your own and with others. Examples of soft skills include communication, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, willingness to learn, adaptability, and teamwork.

How can you measure behaviour?

Defining and measuring behaviour in a structured, comparable, and unbiased way is inextricably complex. To a certain extent, you can construct an interview process to ascertain values and personality, however without understanding a candidate’s needs and drives, you are guessing their future behaviour.

The more data points you have, the more objective you can be, and the more likely you are to predict future behaviour.

In addition to the data collected and analyzed from CVs and interviews, there are several assessments you can utilize to build an overall collection of data points, which you can use to predict future job performance.

Cognitive Assessments:

“Intelligence, as measured by a cognitive assessment, is the single best predictor of job performance.”

Cognitive assessments are still one of the best predictors of job performance. They are used to measure thinking abilities such as memory, language, reasoning, and perception. The Cognitive Assessment by Predictive Index measures an individual’s ability to attain new knowledge on the job, the degree of turnover from experience, problem-solving, adaptation, and discernment based on complex information.

When using Predictive Index’s Cognitive Assessment™, I find that it is not a case of the higher your score is, the more likely you are to perform successfully in a position. Rather, you use the data to compare their cognitive assessment score to the requirements of the job. When incorporating a talent optimization strategy, you are aligning your talent’s capabilities to your organisation’s mission. You would not want to put someone with a very high score into a simple and monotonous role; they would get bored very quickly. However, if you had a role that dealt with complex tasks, problem-solving, and processing new information, it is likely that someone with a higher score would perform better.

Behavioural Assessments:

Your personality profile is like your baseball swing. Most children growing up will play some form of baseball / softball. Some children do better than others, yet the parents never understand why. It must be natural ability right?

Behavioural Assessments help you to see the things you cannot. It’s like having an expert coach analyse your child’s swing and then providing a report on what they need to work on. 

The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment™ provides an in-depth report, which helps your managers understand which needs to fulfil, how people complement each other, and how to coach and utilise your people potential effectively. 

Beane did not focus on a player’s weakness. He focussed on what they did well and created opportunities for them to utilise their strengths.  These reports help you to understand the natural strengths of each individual employee and acknowledge how these strengths support the team’s needs.

As with the Cognitive Assessment, there is not necessarily a right and wrong profile, rather the additional data points should be used to gain a much stronger overview of who they are and how they perform in a social setting. 

Furthermore, the reports from these two assessments provide fascinating data for your employees and teams to become more self-aware of themselves and each other. These reports illustrate how you work and adapt to your working environment. Understanding these behaviours and translating them into actions, which allow your teams to work to their strengths will help you create winning team environments.

A word of caution

Spoiler alert! Beane and his 2001 Oakland A’s team go on to have arguably the most dominant second half of the season in modern MLB history. They did not become successful until they had buy-in from the players, staff, and managers.

Talent optimization is the discipline of aligning business strategy and talent strategy. It’s a strategic process by which organizations optimize employee performance and experience to achieve their aspirations and maximize their results.

Introducing these incredible tools will only be effective if you have the trust of your team. “Without a basis in trust, employees will regard the new arsenal of HR tools and techniques as intrusive, controlling, like strings on a marionette.” 

A final thought.

Covid has pitched us all a massive curveball and we have all had to adjust and adapt fast. It has accelerated digital transformation and placed more significance on the importance of your talent.   How you manage your talent is now your competitive advantage.

HR Professionals are finally being recognised for their strategic input by getting a seat at the table. The bases are loaded and it’s their time to step up to the plate and hit a ‘grand slam’ through talent optimization.

If you want to learn more about how align your people strategy with your business strategy, please reach out, it would be great to connect and learn about your business.

Would you like to try the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment? 

Click the link below to get started:


Best of luck and take care,

Dave Crumby

Founder at 360 Talent Solutions | Associate Partner at Humanostics

Certified PI Practitioner | Certified Talent Optimization Consultant 

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