Zig When Others Zag

What begins as a failure of the imagination ends as a market inefficiency.”                     Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Maybe you haven’t read the book from which this quote was taken. But I’m guessing you’ve seen or heard of the movie adaptation starring Brad Pitt. Or perhaps you have some awareness of the “Moneyball” philosophy implemented by the Oakland A’s in the early 2000s. The crux of this philosophy is zigging when others are zagging. Baseball general managers refer to it as finding the “market inefficiency.”

Bringing it closer to home for me, my hometown team rode this approach all the way to a title five years ago. When the rest of baseball was coveting slow-footed home run bashers, the Kansas City Royals “zigged” by placing a premium on fleet, athletic ballplayers that made good contact, put the ball in play often, and played stellar defense. Taking advantage of this market inefficiency led to two straight World Series appearances and one world championship.

What is your market inefficiency? Where can you “zig?”

Here are a few idea-starters:

Staff up when others are staffing down

This may be difficult for those hit hard by the pandemic. But if you’re able to add one or more members to your Advancement team, there has never been a better time in recent memory to do so.

Hiring managers who are promoting job opportunities are finding larger and deeper candidate pools. And not just because good Advancement employees are being let go by organizations slashing budgets. More employed candidates are also searching, because of a feeling of instability in their current position or because their employer has de-emphasized Advancement work and they need a new challenge. If you adhere to the Jim Collins philosophy that prioritizes getting the “right people on the bus,” this may be a great time to welcome one or more aboard.

Boldly invite gifts when others are doing so sheepishly (or not at all)

There is a universal truth in Advancement right now: Those who are asking for support are getting it, those who aren’t are not. Encouragingly, donors are still bullish despite the current challenges. Yet too many organizations have gone silent or have scaled back their engagement efforts and gift invitations.

Our work has become more difficult because of the pandemic, for sure. Our approach needs to shift to be more empathetic and more targeted, without a doubt. And the environment may become even more challenging in the future, depending on how the pandemic and the economy trend. But pausing or curtailing our work only exacerbates the problem.

Moving our work forward means that we need to be more creative, or imaginative, with our efforts.

And remember: “What begins as a failure of the imagination (by others) ends as a market inefficiency (for you).”


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