From Moneyball to people analytics, Wharton Prof. Cade Massey focuses on how evidence-based decision making can help people and organizations thrive.
Listen to Cade Massey Live from the Wharton People Analytics Conference
A long-time professor in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives, Cade Massey has won multiple teaching awards for his courses on Negotiation and Influence. He also is the co-director of Wharton People Analytics and co-creator of the Wharton’s People Analytics Conference, which focuses on evidence-based decision making to help people and organizations thrive.
He’s also the co-host of “Wharton Moneyball” on SiriusXM Wharton Business Radio (Channel 111) and co-creator of the wildly popular Massey-Peabody NFL Power Rankings, which appear in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Drawing on experimental and real-world data on topics like 401K savings, the NFL draft, and graduate school admissions, Cade’s research focuses on judgment under uncertainty – how and how well people predict what will happen in the future.

Q. What class are you teaching these days in the EMBA program?

Lately, I’ve been teaching an elective called Influence on our West Coast campus in San Francisco. The course equips students to be more impactful in their organizations.

Building, protecting, and using influence is critical for achieving their goals. It requires good personal decision making as well as understanding others’ decision-making, proficiency at the negotiation table as well as with the tacit negotiations before and after sitting at the table.

So in this course we focus on a wide range of influence tools to help with these efforts. It’s about going from having the right answer to convincing others to use that answer.

Q. What do students take away from your Influence course?

They are most often surprised to learn that we don’t live in a just world. Many people assume that if they work hard and are well-intentioned then things will work out. While those are good intentions, our starting place for the class is that this isn’t true. If you want to make a real difference, you need to be good at your job, but also work as creatively as possible to influence others and make an impact.

There also is often an ‘aha’ moment when students realize how they tend to use power. We talk in class about three power strategies. A soft power strategy involves working through relationships, a hard power strategy involves working through coercion, and a smart power strategy involves working through analysis. It’s enlightening for students to reflect on their own strategy and see the benefits of having a range of strategies.

Q. How did you get involved with the People Analytics Conference?

Prof. Adam Grant and I started the conference five years ago to share good ideas and build community around cutting-edge human resource strategies and people analytics. Our objective is to highlight good practices and connect people who want to be in this field and people who are working in this field.

Prof. Cade Massey with speaker GM CMO Mary Barra at the 2018 Wharton People Analytics Conference.

This year, our speaker lineup included Mary Barra, Chair and CEO of Generate Motors; Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Slack; and Elena Botelho, coauthor of The CEO Next Door and partner at ghSMART. The thing I like best about our conference is the range of topics. This year, we talked about everything from CEO leadership lessons to rigorous research to data visualization techniques. That is a great trifecta.

Q. What do you like about teaching EMBA students?

Wharton EMBA students are smart, experienced, and interesting. What’s not to like? The more experience students have, the more they appreciate these issues, tools, and questions about influence. A lot of students have tapped out their individual contributor potential and are transitioning into leadership roles.

The tools that made them successful as individual contributors aren’t the same tools they need as leaders, so it’s important for them to learn how to be more impactful and influential.

Q. What does your SiriusXM Radio show “Moneyball” focus on?

I started this show in 2014 with other faculty colleagues to talk about sports analytics, which is a subset of people analytics. We talk about issues like talent acquisition and data analytics. Each week, we bring in guests for part of the show, which helps us understand what issues are on the frontier and what people are struggling with.

It’s very valuable for us as professors because it keeps us on top of what is going on in the world. Also, sports tend to be more advanced with analytics, so it helps us see what will trickle down to non-sports areas in the next five to 10 years.

Q. What research projects are you working on now?

I collaborate on Power Rankings with a former student to evaluate football teams and predict football outcomes.

I’m also currently researching algorithm aversion. When massive data is involved, there is a need to support human decision making in organizations with algorithms. However, people tend to resist their use. I want to understand the psychology and come up with prescriptions for how to manage that resistance.

Posted: April 26, 2018

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