How do we know this works?
As recently as the late 19th century, some physicians were convinced that practices such as bloodletting patients were effective methods for treating certain illnesses. Nowadays, we know such treatments to be useless or even damaging, but it wasn’t until people started challenging these ‘experts’ that change finally came about.
In this instance, change was the result of people asking: how do we know this works? This simple question encouraged the making of hypotheses, trials and production of verifiable results.
There are countless areas of football clubs where conventional wisdom also goes unchallenged. How do we know it works? “Because I know it works,” might be a typical response, but the evidence provided often overlooks the failures.
For example, until recently we had assumed that the positive relationship between spending and success was clear and instructive, but more recently we have learnt that we’ve ignored some crucial lessons from history, and that the correlation is not so clear.
Some questions are obvious. Are we sure our bonuses truly incentivise players? Do we know if our scouting process unearths all the right talent? Does our approach to identifying head coaches give us the most suitable candidates?
In science, these questions would be tackled with controlled experiments, but this is impractical in the fast-moving world of sport. Therefore it often takes a leap of faith to go beyond asking the question and trying something that goes against the grain.
Better still, fragments of best practice are littered all around the football landscape; for example in youth development, Southampton recently hosted the world’s first bio-banded tournament. Sometimes inspiration for change is just a phone call, if not a Google search away.
How do we know this works? “Because the evidence suggests that doing this will shift the odds in our favour, and it’s better than any of the alternatives that we know.”