I was inspired by the book MoneyBall by Michael Lewis who chronicles the Oakland A’s baseball team and its strategy of focusing on undervalued players in the Major Leagues.
I’ve found some success in applying this to business. Specifically, I am always on the look out for undervalued people.
Here are two examples of undervalued people I look out for and find:
Falling Stars (or “Falling Angels”)
Falling Stars are workers who hit a certain apex in their career and then for some reason fell — often far — from that level.
The reasons they are “falling” may include personal problems such as divorce, substance abuse or alleged unethical or illegal activity.
Such Falling Stars are worth a close look to be given a second chance, especially if they proved themselves for a long period of time before their fall from grace.
I recall an attorney who was having a challenging time on the job market because one of his prior employers had run into trouble with the Federal Government and this had tainted the attorney’s reputatin…but closer scrutiny showed that this individual had done nothing wrong and in fact had a track record of 25 years or proven value! He was a fallen star.
Note: Since I wrote this post, I read a good post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in which he used the term “fallen angels” to describe players who were former stars on the decline in performance, but whom improved in the right new situation.
Mark gets it.
Diamonds in the Rough
A second example of undervalued people is what I refer to as “Diamonds in the Rough.”
Diamonds in the Rough are different than Fallen Stars…as the label implies — they are quite valuable individuals who are simply not appreciated for their potential.
Diamonds in the Rough usually exist because of poor managers or leaders surrounding the Rough Diamond.
A good place to look for such Diamonds in the Rough are mismanaged companies as they sometimes forget to dig deep enough to find their diamonds.
A good sign of a mismanaged company is one ego-driven management; they typically take their Diamonds for granted.
A great time to hire Diamonds is when their employer is not doing so well in business…perhaps their sales have flattened or profits are down. The Diamond will have his or her antennae up a bit higher during those times…and you can scoop in and hire them!
MoneyBall Author Michael Lewis has written a couple of other good books I recommend (especially if you like “inside baseball” type books with real-life characters being written about as if they were fictional:
Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (in inside look at Wall Street from his four years working at Salamon Brothers) and
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (About Jim Clark who founded Silicon Graphcis, Netscape and Healtheon)