Detailed research into sports or television is never a perfect indicator of success. So you might depend on gut instincts. But what about athletes and TV shows that have neither?
By looking at the numbers, few NBA general managers thought that previously unknown Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin would average well over 25 points a game and lead his New York Knicks to six straight victories -- five of them without the team’s two big marquee stars.
What can TV programmers learn from this? While we all know the value of media research, scheduling research, and the testing of TV shows, success means more than just looking at numbers.
Not all well-tested shows achieve positive results. (Hello, Fox's "Lone Star.") Billy Beane, the baseball general manager of "Moneyball" fame, used cold-hearted research to grab under-valued, under-appreciated players and make the Oakland As into a better team.
Would Jeremy Lin have made the list had Beane been an NBA GM? Playing for low-profile (but still NCAA Division 1) Harvard, little in Lin’s background could have predicted his recent rise to fame.
In TV, could have anyone predicted that MTV's "Jersey Shore" would not only get the most viewers for any regularly scheduled non-sports cable show, but regularly beat many broadcast network shows on Thursday nights?
But we perhaps should have guessed better about the success of another high-profile singing competition show on the order of an aging "American Idol."
NBC's "The Voice" is doing very well. NBC might tell you that Mark Burnett’s previous singing competition show -- CBS' summer series "Rock Star" -- was used, in part, as a lesson to figure out what would or wouldn't work in "The Voice."
And then there are those shows not built up with big marketing dollars that achieve truly unexpected results -- like ABC's "Once Upon a Time" this season.
Maybe such results also have to do with just being somewhat lazy.
Looking at the 2010 NBA draft, a lone basketball statistician surmised – based on Lin's field goal percentage and other stats at Harvard -- that he would be a good grab for a team looking for a point guard.
Even then some GMs probably probably thought he didn't seem all that "athletic" or that he didn't play against strong competition or go to a big basketball school like Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky or Kansas
That's right. Not all television shows have producers like Steven Spielberg or J.J. Abrams attached to them, nor big research pedigrees. But it turns out that even those shows can fail.