The Amateur Sports Family Advisor

At Placement Loop, we are intrigued by the growing demand in other amateur sports for trusted advisors. In ice hockey, they are commonly referred to as “family advisors” and they build relationships with coaches and players to help them get what they want. The type of advisor/customer relationship we support requires an understanding of customer intent, but in context that is relevant to surrounding conditions, limitations, and values. As we see it, trusted advisors don’t rely strictly on customer intents, rather, they proactively suggest actions that hadn’t occurred to their customers,  producing a more valuable result for them.

Coaches and players only have 24 hours in the day and one of their growing needs is to increase their ROI—return on investment. If coaches and players had a trusted advisor who knew their objectives and could help them sift through options available to them, they would get far more value per unit of investment (e.g. time, travel, and other expenses). With the advent of big data, sophisticated analytics, social software, and cloud computing (just to name a few of the enabling technologies) the “trusted advisor” value proposition is expanding into all levels of amateur sports to help place ability at best-fit.

In the future, the real winners in amateur sports will be those who are working with family advisors whose focus is on improving the player pursuit, not the outcome. The outcome is sufficiently unpredictable and therefore can not be foreseen accurately enough to make the outcome the focus. However, trusted advisors traveling down the path of helping others improve their pursuits, are truly going to earn trust and the deep collaboration that is necessary to help customers eventually end up with successful outcomes.

So, how is trust and collaboration built and preserved over time?

Trust comes in part from the realization that some advisors know coaches and players as an individual very broadly and deeply, not just as an acquaintance with an intent. That is the easy part, given the new technologies that are increasingly powerful and cost effective in capturing, compiling, and analyzing large amounts of data related to what coaches and players are looking for.

The real challenge is creating a collaboration experience that assures information and data is being used to serve the player’s best interest. The good news is that new technology is significantly reducing the cost of delivering advice-in-context and curating it. The result is that services are likely to be satisfaction-based and increasingly affordable to a growing segment of amateur sports participants that is below the line of “elite”. And that is good for all!

Do you have any experiences with athletic family advisors to share?

Efficient vs. Effective Distribution of Advice

The recruiting and placement of ability must be improved for effectiveness, not only optimized for efficiency. By solely focusing on optimization past solutions are merely failing faster and faster to recruit and place ability at best-fit. Past results are horrible evidenced by the percentage (72% according to Gallup) of workers who are not engaged at work. Currently, in my opinion, there is not any leadership to improve recruiting and placement effectiveness in the long-tail of markets. So, we are going to be that leader.

A 2011 Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the National Career Development Association (NCDA) provides feedback that is very clear regarding those who provide career advice: career practitioners are a vital resource for the livelihood of workforces and are underutilized relative to their potential need and value. In the poll, 24% of adults report that they have visited a career practitioner and 86% of them found it to be helpful. However, there are not enough career practitioners, in the traditional sense, to cover the masses, and there never will be, in the traditional sense.

Instead, Placement Loop embraces the role of domain expert to deliver recruiting and placement advice that is “good enough” to serve the masses. Indeed we are architecting our technology to support a layer of domain expert networks that will serve the market. To that end, our placement ecosystem design is supportive and accepting of the shift away from control and coordination at the center towards collaboration and discovery at the edge. Our design is about participants over platforms and individuals over institutions.

In addition, Placement Loop views human capital like financial services companies view financial capital, that is, from a traditional brokerage and distribution perspective. We use proven advisory models that effectively distribute financial product to design solutions for the distribution of ability, as if it were product. Not only does this provide the insight to recruit and place permanent workers at best-fit but it also addresses the growing market of independent workers.

The solutions are simple although quite complex to execute. The good news is that technology and methodology have advanced and network effects are more understood to increase the confidence to deliver utility, that is, effectiveness.

Placement Loop intends to motivate the delivery of recruiting and placement advice from domain experts who are already embedded in talent-based communities. We intend to provide a platform for all recruiting and placement participants in those communities to save time in their quest to make better decisions quicker. Sound familiar? That’s the foundation of how the financial services industry works.

Placement Loop is designing a solution for domain experts to become network entrepreneurs in the industry or sector that they are passionate about.

How profitable will it be in the future to be a network entrepreneur in this space? Sign up at our website to learn more when we open up your sector or “loop”.

The Enterprise and Placement Improvements

My previous posts titled Evaluating Placement Information (Parts 1 – 3) prompted a request for me to read an article by Don Fornes, CEO of Software Advice which sponsors The New Talent Times blog. I was asked by Software Advice to opine on the article.

The article, titled “The Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team”, was published on BusinessInsider and refers to a commissioned project by Mr. Fornes to analyze the high-performers at his company, to see what drives and motivates them. The research concluded with four distinct personality profiles which describes what makes their top players tick, the management style they respond best to, and how to identify and hire more people like them.

The following is my opinion about the problem the article addresses but in a more expansive view.

First, let’s define the problem. The problem is that an increasing number of people in the world are miserable, hopeless, suffering, and unhappy because they don’t have a good job—one that is a best-fit. The United States is no exception and, in fact, may be the poster child for workplace unhappiness.

Second, in almost all the content relating to ability placement there always seems to be an embedded assumption that we need to rely on the enterprise to make improvements. What if that assumption is wrong? What if the future of work is more about coordinating distributed work activity versus aggregated? Then, as solution providers, I think we need to design for the individual as a work network node, rather than designing for the enterprise as the work center, to realize the improvements we are looking for.

Third, we can look at the financial services industry for an analog to better understand how psychological profiles are used to help place capital at best-fit. After all ability is human capital. My experience tells me that psychological profiling of investors to facilitate the placement of financial capital at best-fit is more art than science. This is because the ongoing decision-making environment is extremely dynamic with very many variables. More specifically, in this space, best-fit knowledge may depend on tacit information held by individuals, distributed in a community network. If you accept this as a constraint and embrace it as such then you’ll be able to see the futility of trying to optimize the art of placing capital at best-fit.

So, in my opinion, psychological profiles can not be relied upon with a high degree of confidence to complete the job-to-be-done successfully. This is not to say that they are not an improvement but rather should be viewed as a sustaining innovation. It is my belief that to make the improvements we are looking for we need disruptive innovation.

Evaluating Placement Information (Part 3 of 3)

Skillfully evaluating information to place ability at best-fit will tend to have three parts: analysis, psychology, and constraints. Accommodating any one of these in a placement process isn’t easy. Being good at all three is rare. Let’s look at the constraints part below and tie up this series of posts.

The Constraints 

The third part of a skillful evaluation addresses constraints. The most important job for principals (i.e. the talent seekers and candidates) here is to manage recruitment risks, or the risks that arise because agent-actors (i.e. placement facilitators) may have interests that differ from those of principals. For example, placement facilitators who are fully paid or credited as of a candidate’s hire date may unwittingly employ conservative strategies associated with top-down recruiting initiatives versus understanding the true growth opportunities represented by the relevant edges of recruiting. More to the point, they might, aggressively market candidates who behave similar to a stereotyped benchmark.

I make this point by distinguishing between the profession and business of agency. The profession is about recruiting talent so as to maximize long-term returns, while the business of recruiting or agency is about earning rewards in the short-term. Naturally, current viability is essential to support the profession. But when a placement facilitator emphasizes the business at the expense of the profession, principals are not best served. Rather, facilitators should concentrate on helping principals find matches that provide sensible balance, relevant diversity, and are under priced. This requires going against the consensus and being willing to appear very different from the pack.

John Maynard Keynes, the renowned economist and investor, wrote about this in The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, published in 1936. He discusses the conduct of a long-term investor: “For it is in the essence of his behavior that he should be eccentric, unconventional and rash in the eyes of the average opinion. If he is successful, that will only confirm the general belief in his rashness; and if in the short run he is unsuccessful, which is very likely, he will not receive much mercy. Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.”

As Keynes suggests, the risk of losing credibility as a placement facilitator for straying too far from convention is important. As a result, facilitators will often strive to be different enough to succeed but not so different as to be considered unconventional. The reason is that they are often inappropriately judged by short-term performance. Likewise, a principal who makes a conventional decision that turns out to be wrong can fall back on the argument that the decision process was usual, even if uninspired, and hence the outcome was based on something unavoidable. A principal who makes a correct but unconventional decision that ends badly is exposed to criticism and the risk of losing credibility.

In hiring, the trend toward conformity is clear. It seems to me that workforces today look more like their stereotyped benchmarks than they did thirty years ago. Just as we see in investment portfolios the measure of how different a mutual fund portfolio is compared to its benchmark, has fallen from 75 percent in 1980 to about 60 percent in 2010 in the United States. Too many leaders in ability placement markets as well as in business fear straying too far from convention, even in cases where the convention isn’t all that great.

Because all three parts to skillfully evaluate placement information are difficult, they stand in the way of great long-term performance. Some can succeed in one or two of those areas, but very few can master all three. This fits with the conclusion of an analysis of skill and luck in hiring: only a handful can surmount the analytical, psychological, and constraint obstacles. The same is true in financial investing which provides an excellent analog to learn from.

Evaluating Placement Information (Part 2 of 3)

Skillfully evaluating information relating to the best-fit placement of ability will tend to have three parts: analysis, psychology, and constraints exerted by principals (i.e. talent seekers and candidates). Accommodating any one of these in a placement process isn’t easy. Being good at all three is rare. Let’s look at the psychology part below.

The Psychology

The second part of a skillful evaluation is psychological. This part deals with talent seeker and candidate biases. These include over confidence, anchoring, confirmation, and relying on what is most recent. These biases arise automatically and are therefore very difficult to overcome by primary placement participants or secondary participants known as influential others. For example, when making a prediction, people tend to give disproportionate weight to whatever they have experienced most recently. In hiring, there is a strong tendency to choose talent seekers or candidates which have done well recently, those that seem to have a hot hand.

Also, how people make decisions when they are uncertain about gains and losses is at odds with classical economic theory. Because good placement process decisions can have bad outcomes, not everyone has a temperament that is well suited to making decisions about activities that involve luck. This emphasizes the importance of being willing to go against the crowd. Most agent-actors (i.e. placement facilitators) know that it is more comfortable to be part of the crowd than to be alone. But it’s also hard to distinguish yourself if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else. Skillful investors, for example, heed Benjamin Graham’s advice: “Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it—even though others may hesitate or differ.” However, it is insufficient to be a contrarian because sometimes the consensus is right. The goal is to be a contrarian when it allows you to gain an edge, and the calculator helps you ensure a margin of safety.

We’ll get into the constraints (Part 3 of 3) in the next post.

Do you think there are similarities between evaluating a person’s ability and evaluating a stock?

Evaluating Placement Information (Part 1 of 3)

Skillfully evaluating information relating to the best-fit placement of ability will tend to have three parts: analysis, psychology, and constraints exerted by principals (i.e. talent seekers and candidates). Accommodating any one of these in a placement process isn’t easy. Being good at all three is rare. Let’s look at each part below.

Before we begin however, let’s review the placement process in total which is as follows:

  1. Aggregation of intents
  2. Filtration of preferences
  3. Introduction of principals
  4. Prediction via evaluation
  5. Commitment execution

Although we view process sequentially, in reality our experience is palindromic in that a principal or agent-actor (i.e. placement facilitator) can enter the process at any point and proceed any way. This post deals with #4 of the placement process.

Let’s get to it!

The Analysis

To begin the analysis, the real causes of best-fit need to be identified. Success factors include supply and demand and outcomes. For this purpose, data can provide insight to how markets and their participants actually look. So if there’s a discrepancy between what a person’s ability ought to be valued at and what they are currently valued at, placement facilitators need to develop a theory about why value and pay have diverged. What’s going on that’s causing the gap? The analytical edge is embodied in the theory of what determines the fundamentals and why the ability is misvalued or misplaced.

The edge should also include what Benjamin Graham, the father of security analysis, called a margin of safety. You have a margin of safety when you buy a stock at a price that is substantially less than its value. As Graham noted, the margin of safety “is available for absorbing the effect of miscalculations or worse than average luck.” The size of the gap between value and pay tells you how big your margin of safety is. As Graham says, the margin of safety goes down as the price goes up. In other words, make your margin of safety as large as possible without losing attractiveness.

We’ll get into the Psychology (Part 2 of 3) in the next post.

Do you think it’s possible to value ability similar to how a stock is valued?