NYT Bestselling Author of Up, Up, and Away and The Extra 2%
“One part history, one part local legend, one part eulogy, and one part letter to a lost love. The Montreal Expos deserved a book, and they deserved this book.”—The National Post on Up, Up, and Away
Montreal’s Jonah Keri is the author of bestselling book Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. It tells the definitive story of the Montreal Expos—what happened to one of baseball’s most beloved teams, and what can we learn from its storied past? The Globe and Mail called it “a genius hunk of a book.” He is also the author of The New York Times bestseller The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. The book shares the unlikely story of how three financial whiz kids with no baseball experience turned a disastrous organization—The Tampa Bay Rays—into World Series contenders by implementing the same strategies that fuel financial sector success. Keri is also the editor and co-author of Baseball between the Numbers and has contributed to many other books.
Keri offers a nuanced look into innovation and leadership. He reveals how incorporating that little edge—that extra two percent—and focusing on vision and planning can make a difference in any organization, from a pro sports team to a Fortune 100 company to the neighbourhood gas station. A deft storyteller, his writing will be found regularly in Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, GQ, and Rolling Stone throughout 2016.
On Vision: The Importance of Planning and Foresight for Success
Few organizations ever had worse timing than the Montreal Expos did in 1994. After 25 years of botched plans, false starts, and near-misses, the Expos finally assembled the kind of baseball team that could win the big one. On August 11, 1994, they led the National League East by six games, having blown past the supposedly unbeatable Atlanta Braves. Then, a labour impasse torpedoed the entire season and the World Series got cancelled, scuttling Montreal’s dreams of a championship season. Unfortunately, Expos fans never got a chance to see what team might have done over a full season. Owner and managing partner Claude Brochu ordered general manager Kevin Malone to dump four of the team’s best players as quickly as possible, to avoid a deadline date that would’ve seen their 1995 salaries kick in. In this talk, Jonah Keri explores the team’s lack of vision and inability to commit to a winning team, keep fans engaged after the strike, and build what would have become a sustainable, winning product. These are lessons every business must take to heart. It’s easy to get caught up in the deadlines and challenges of today. But without the discipline to forge a strong long-term plan, the competition is going to eat your lunch. This valuable and entertaining keynote explores the importance of planning, of foresight, and of vision.
On Strategy: Walking the Fine Line Between Winning and Losing
In this talk, author Jonah Keri walks us through the essential difference between winning and losing strategies. The Tampa Bay Rays baseball team used cutting-edge analysis and unconventional thinking to go from worst to first. The Montreal Expos, another small-market team, faced the same economic challenges and did many things right—but ultimately failed. It doesn’t take much for a winning strategy to go wrong. Little things add up. When they’re good, they can make the difference between winning and losing. When they’re bad, they can eradicate any forward momentum you have. Keri speaks on how to maintain momentum, seize optimal strategies, and avoid the little pitfalls that can cause big problems. Drawing on his research from his two books, The Extra 2% and Up, Up, and Away, Keri provides key insights from a lifetime marrying baseball and statistics to worthwhile strategy.
On Big Data: In God We Trust; All Others Must Bring Data!
People used to rely on their gut instinct instead of data. Take baseball: For the first 100-plus years of baseball’s existence, the men in charge of the sport relied on intuition and memory to run their teams. Some concepts worked. Many did not. Turns out the human mind is unreliable. We fixate on specific memories, then throw out others that contradict what we’ve learned. We become a biased observers of events, unable to make clear-headed decisions, because we’re too invested in our core beliefs. That’s where big data comes in. Branch Rickey began using numbers to build a moribund Dodgers franchise into a bunch of winners. Eschewing biases against non-white players, he recruited the great Jackie Robinson. Rickey even made smaller decisions based on granular data like pitcher-batter match-ups. Still, those concepts stagnated for another few decades, before the Oakland A’s pounced on the value of big data—which is how they developed the concept of Moneyball. Today, all professional sports teams rely on data to some extent. But the best teams use it to govern every move, all the way down to what they feed their athletes. We face the same inflection point in the business world, where the most successful companies use complex algorithms to dominate their market (for example, think of Amazon’s incredible growth, despite toiling in a low-margin business), while those stuck in old ways fade into irrelevance. In this talk, Jonah Keri goes inside the human mind to show us that what we think we know isn’t so, and how a firm grounding in data holds the key to overcoming biases, and making informed decisions—in sports, and in business.