Computers? Anybody who uses computers doesn’t know a damn thing about this game…

Gus Lobel, the storied baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves portrayed with typical intransigence by Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve, doesn’t like statistics. The general thrust of the film is that identifying talent is an art, and statistics will never match the experience and intuition of a talented scout. It is the traditionalist’s rebuttal to ‘Moneyball’, the film documenting the Oakland Athletics’ success in adopting an exclusively data-driven approach to player recruitment

In their respective portrayals of what works in professional sport, both films occupy extremes on the spectrum of making data-driven decisions. In taking opposite sides of the argument, however, they are suggesting that organisations must make a choice: art or science. Picasso or Pythagoras.

In social housing, it is our experience that those organisations who choose to adopt the positive aspects of each approach and commit to embedding this into the organisation’s decision-making processes, tend to be more successful.  They recognise the value in making expert, subjective assessments of performance, investment decisions, tenant satisfaction strategies etc.

But they also recognise the limitations of this approach. Whether it be asset coverage or assessment bias, smart organisations are finding effective, data-driven approaches to plug these gaps.  Our Strategic Performance Insights Model is helping many associations  gain access to insights that are typically outside of the scope of their finance and business intelligence networks.  

But to be successful on a sustainable basis requires more than simply taking out a subscription to a smart product. Access is rarely a source of competitive advantage – the key is to make that access count through changing the way that the organisation as a whole thinks. If the Boardroom won’t make a performance/investment decision without both an expert assessment from their executives, and statistical analysis, art and science will quickly become key to how the organisation makes decisions going forward.

Those associations with the discipline to make these changes stick will ultimately succeed. And it won’t be due to solely to art or science.  It will be down to both.

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