Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Does Shane Battier Have To Do With Museums??

Shane Battier plays basketball for the Houston Rockets. He “is widely regarded inside the N.B.A. as, at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars.” His scoring average is nothing special, nor are his other stats. Yet according to the New York Times Magazine article (click title of this post), Shane Battier might be as valuable to the Rockets as Yao Ming. He should be an All-Star. Why? The author, Michael “Moneyball” Lewis says...

“When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways.”

Battier’s problem is that, until very recently, NBA teams have had no interest in measuring what the author calls “the right things” -- the intangibles that produce victory.

So what does this have to do with “The Emerging Digital Museum”? What if....museums could develop an entirely new way of measuring their worth to the community, and these numbers could be used for fundraising and promotional purposes? For example...

• # of guests who developed an enduring (lifetime) interest in the subject because of a museum visit.

• # of guests who shifted career goals because of a museum visit -- perhaps becoming a teacher, and influencing the lives of thousands of young people

• # of people who decided to move to a community because it boasted a such a great museum

• # of guests who formed life-changing friendships, meeting other people as enthusiastic about the museum as they were.

If all this sounds a big silly, so did the ramblings of the brilliant iconoclast Bill James when he began (self) publishing his “Baseball Abstract” back in the early 1980’s. When Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane began using James’s stats, Beane's Oakland team (30 million dollar payroll) often equaled or bettered the New York Yankees (180 million dollar payroll).

The digital world allows museums to measure guest interest in new ways (exhibit visits, time in museum, website hits, Facebook links, blogpost chatter, etc.) Is your museum the “Shane Battier” of the museum world? What statistics could prove that?

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