One of my friends has borrowed me a great book recently, which I am reading now (with great pleasure, I have to add). It is the “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and the title of current post comes from it. I have posted yesterday one of my favourite passages from that book here.
Mr. Taleb is so very right in many things he wrote in his book. We love the “…scholarly sounding verbiage (b******t), the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicised crap, the pomp, the Academie Francaise, Harvard Business School…”, we love all sorts of recipes, ready-made advice applicable seemingly to all and everything. We are so much in favour of ten points, three ways, seven habits that we forget to realize that whatever worked for one person in one particular situation has very small chances in working in other situation for other person – or organisation. The problem here is that if enough people will try to use those seven habits, by pure chance some are bound to succeed. We will then think that the recipe works, not paying attention to the “dark side of the moon”, namely to all people or organisations which failed using those same seven habits or, as Mr. Taleb calls it, “scholarly sounding verbiage” bullshit.
One of our traits is that we force ourselves to believe that those theories work, finding proof in their favor, not looking at the issue like we should and taking all into account. Why? Well, here is what Mr. Taleb tells us: “…We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial – and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort.” Thinking is an effort.
Business schools would do better to teach us how to think, not how to forcefully use some scholarly sounding bullshit often enough for it to finally work. Damn and ignore the poor souls which failed, praise those who succeeded, loud enough for all others to see that the theory works… Next time you will be told something like that, ask yourself what is the dark side of the moon in that case. Make an effort. Think. Maybe you will come up with a different solution to your particular problem, fitting your particular predicament. If you will be lucky enough, maybe you will get to make another five steps to be a guru in whatever you managed to solve.