Leading to Lose!

If you want to get something done, you can learn a lot from stadium builders, because, instead of losing a lot, they win a lot! The Times reports that the people of Minnesota spent half a billion dollars (that’s $500,000,000.00) to build a stadium and make concessions that led to being able to host the Super Bowl this past Sunday. If you study the data, it clearly illustrates that every city that has invested heavily in the NFL over the last decade or more, has lost more money than you or I could visualize. So why does it keep happening? Why, despite volumes of documented evidence, do leaders still spearhead new projects like this? There’s a valuable set of take-a-ways here about human behavior: The project is now. You can’t study it for a year or more and come back to it. It’s either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ circumstance that immediately creates opposition. The project is specific. The State of Minnesota could have much more effectively invested half a billion dollars. They could they have created access, improved education, invested in technology, or invested in the job market. However, in this case, there’s an infinite number of alternatives vs. just one specific. The end is in sight. When you build a stadium, you get a stadium. When you host a game, you get a game. That’s rarely true for the more important (but less visually urgent) alternatives, because you don’t see the immediate investment. People in power and people with power will always benefit. High profile projects attract vendors, businesses and politicians with unlimited resources that seek high profile outcomes. They have experience doing this, which means they’re better at influencing forward motion and much better at getting the things they want done, especially with other people’s money. There’s a tribal patriotism at work. All of this forward motion is couched under the banner of ‘What do you mean you don’t support our city?’ For me, the biggest take-away is that, in the face of human emotions and energy, and a lack of leadership with overarching core purpose, a loose-leaf binder from a really good economist or a forecaster has no chance at all.