R&D Metrics: Should you punt on fourth down?


I play Fantasy Football every year and it is an entirely metrics-based pursuit.  If you’ve been under a rock, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears, you probably don’t know that fantasy sports take the statistical numbers from real players, teams and games and turn them into a composite score for fantasy team managers to compete against.  Maybe that doesn’t sound very sexy or fun, but it has become a billion+ dollar industry in the last several years.  It is HUGE.

Managers of product development have often fantasized about having the ability to manage ‘by the numbers’ similar to professional sports.  The allure is quite simple to understand, I mean, who wouldn’t want a binary system for decision making, if you end up wrong, you have your posterior fully covered by math.  Nobody questions the hard, cold logic of math, right?

But from experience, we know that math isn’t always a straight line, and that separated from human intuition, can often be dangerous.  Intuition is often mistaken for “guessing,” when in reality it is more like “subconscious logic” that taps into real data that your awake brain is not fully aware of.

In addition, humans faced with numbers often still need to interpret them, which puts a very inexact science on top of exact figures.  Back to football, a great example of this is Arkansas high school football coach, Kevin Kelly.  Coach Kelly is known for taking standard football conventions and standing them on their heads.  By his interpretation of the numbers, Coach Kelly never punts on fourth down and almost always attempts an onside kick after scoring a touchdown.  In one particular game, his team scored 29 points before his opponent ever got a possession.  Football purists may cringe, but it’s hard to dispute his results, after all, just look at his numbers!

MRT’s “Metrics” workshop addresses how to use the logic of measurement without losing sight of the end goals and ensuring that metrics never supersede the project vision, check it out:

R&D Metrics: Quantifying Portfolio Decisions, Projects and Profits with Instructor Wayne Mackey

Article: Down 29-0 before touching the ball

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