April 29, 2011
Could NFL Draft Day Science Help Boards of Directors?
Slate.com has an article (here) about a company called Achievement Metrics that is using college football players' post-game interviews to predict whether they will be successful professional players. Achievement Metrics analyzes speech of potential NFL draft picks, seeking certain traits including "conceptual complexity," "need for power," and "deliberativeness." If you are interested in any of the process that goes into the NFL draft (or sports drafting generally), the Slate.com article is really worth a read.
The basic premise is rooted in social science that has been used for years to track political speech in an effort to understand the state of mind of various world leaders. As the Slate article notes, the process has been used to try to predict the likelihood someone is a terrorist. A paper on that subject is here (pdf): "The Distinctive Language of Terrorists."
Achievement Metrics explains their offerings to NFL teams this way:
The Science Of Risk Prediction
- Identify players with the right combination of on-field talent and off-field character.
- Minimize the risk of player selection errors with Achievement Metrics.
- Provide teams, organizations, insurance underwriters, financial service institutions, and sponsors the tools to make more fully informed decisions.
I can't help but think this kind of analysis might be just as helpful (or more) in the process of picking CEOs, senior executives, and investment managers. I'd be very interested in knowing what this kind of analysis might tell us about someone like David Sokol or Donald Longueui, for example. After all, NFL teams are putting a lot of money their behind their players, but publicly traded companies are putting a lot of big money behind their executives on behalf of their shareholders.
We can't substitute science for human judgment in all cases, but it sure would be nice to have another tool to help a board of directors in their decision-making process. After all, to stick with an NFL analogy, every board (and NFL team) wants to make sure they aren't about to hire their version of Matt Millen. To this Detroit Lions fan, that's about as bad as it could get. Then again, at least Millen was, as far as I can tell, honest. Honestly that bad, but still honest. That doesn't appear to be the case for some other key exectives.