Five things you can learn from fantasy football

This time of year, I feel sorry for all those people who have nothing better to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon than go outside and spend time with family and friends. It means that they can’t, or worse yet, don’t want to watch football.

These poor people getting all that fresh air don’t realize that football not only satiates our gladiatorial impulses without the need to round up people willing to fight to the death, it also, thanks to Fantasy Football, provides crucial lessons for anyone in the credit union business.

That’s right. Unbeknownst to my wife and family, fantasy football is more than an excuse for grown men to play out their sports fantasies. (After all, most of us can’t respond to our middle-aged angst by buying the Los Angeles clippers). It provides important lessons in proper management.

Here are some of them:

1. The Parcells’ Rule: In the immortal words of former Giants coach Bill Parcells: “you are what your record says you are.” I have been playing fantasy football for more than a decade and have never made the playoffs; come to think of it I usually end up well below 500. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. Look around your credit union. Are there things being done even though everyone knows they don’t work? One of the toughest things for any business to do is to figure out where the line is between aggressively implementing strategies and stubbornly sticking to bad ones. Also, doing things a certain way just because they have always been done that way isn’t exactly a recipe for innovation.

2. Make decisions based on future needs, not past results. We have all been there: you get one of the top draft picks and you take a “can’t miss” running back only to realize two weeks later that his knees are about as healthy as your grandfather’s and every team is dedicating their entire defense to keeping you from scoring points. Change is always coming: those who prepare for it in the form of new technology, smaller branches and up-to-date organizational charts, for example, are going to be in better shape than those who squeeze every last bit of productivity they can out of doing things the old way.

3. We are a nation of narcissists. I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I actually like to watch a whole football game. In contrast, for a growing number of fans, their fantasy team is more important than their real team. There is even a Fantasy Channel dedicated to highlighting individual players in real time so that the actual game doesn’t get in the way. Technology has made the American consumer more self-aware than ever before. If the Greatest Generation acted like the one coming of age right now, WWII would have been lost because too many people would have stopped for selfies while storming the beaches of Normandy. Now, more than ever, people want a unique experience that puts them in charge. That’s why marketing has to be dedicated to demonstrating what’s in it for the member. Brand loyalty isn’t as strong as it used to be and appeals to the cooperative spirit only go so far.

4. Life is a competition, embrace it. Competition works because we are, by nature, competitive animals. No one is going to get rich playing fantasy football with me this fall but someone is going to have bragging rights and someone is going to have the humiliation of being reminded by friends that they are really, really, bad at fantasy football. Most people have a desire to win and that’s not a bad thing. I can tell every time I deal with businesses which ones harness competition and which ones incentivize showing up. If people are willing to spend sleep-deprived nights to prepare for a meaningless draft to create a pretend team of professional athletes than God knows what the right person is willing to do for cross selling incentives, “Employee of the Month” recognition, or a chance to move up the professional ladder. This may seem obvious, but there is a growing body of research arguing that incentives like bonuses aren’t all that effective in boosting performance. I say there is something wrong with the research.

5. Getting information is easy, using it properly is the hard part. With the proliferation of Draft Magazines, retired jocks turned prognosticators on cable sports shows, and blogs by “experts,” your average football fan has more information at his fingertips than a pro scout could have gathered in a lifetime just twenty years ago. The catch is that since the ex-jocks have recently retired from a sport in which other people got paid to knock them into La-La Land, draft magazines seem to be published two years in advance of the fantasy season, and that “expert” blogger could very well be a kid living in his parent’s basement, there is a lot of junk floating around cyberspace. Information is great, but in the words of George Carlin, an expert is someone who knows so much about so little that eventually he knows everything there is to know about absolutely nothing. Big data is becoming available not only to the biggest credit unions but the smallest ones as well. This means that the most effective credit unions will be those that know how to pick out the data that is useful for their credit unions and ignore the stuff that isn’t.

Henry Meier

Henry Meier

As General Counsel for the New York Credit Union Association, Henry is actively involved in all legislative, regulatory and legal issues impacting New York credit unions. Whether he’s joining ... Web: Details