It is a commonplace to talk about making decisions in uncertain times.
I am currently reading “Chaotics” by Philip Kotler. Last Monday I attended the conference given at “The Monday Reading Club” (TMRC) organized by Fnac in Madrid the first Monday of every month. This time the book we talked about was “The Black Swan”.
One of the speakers present at the conference was José de la Peña. José is a very professional person, who prepares his presentations in depth and who is a great speaker. According to the TMRC format, José’s task at the meeting was to present a summary of the “The Black Swan” and draw conclusions about it.
I could not buy the book then, but bearing in mind José presented it in such a didactic way, I felt as if I had already read it after listening to his speech. I will read it; I swear.
The following are the conclusions José drew from the book:
- We are going through uncertain times, which seem to be lasting and indefinite. The more time goes by, the more such uncertainty seems to increase.
- Human beings are incredibly bad at predicting the future.
- How can we make decisions in such uncertain times?
The book is called “The Black Swan” because it was believed there were only white swans in the world, until Australia was discovered, and the first black swans were seen.
The expression “black swan” refers to unusual and unexpected events. Some examples of black swans are the beginning of the First World War, the Great Crash in 1929, and the 9-11 terrorist attack against the Twin Towers.
Another example José gave to us was that of the turkey carefully fed and loved, ignoring his fate for next Christmas.
The speaker also said that in difficult times it is not convenient to hop on every train passing, because there are many of them, all heading to many different destinations.
The need to control everything and the consequences of trying to have influence in the facts happening around us have been perfectly shown at the Coen brothers film “Burn After Reading”.
There is a sentence summarizing the entire essence of the film. An important CIA officer gives the following order to a subordinate in a chaotic moment –”All right. Report back when, um, I don’t know. When it makes sense”.
The following are my thoughts after listening to José’s words:
1) The fact the World is unpredictable does not mean decisions should not be made. We must act, and we must certainly do it faster than before.
2) Rationalizing things may be an extremely difficult task, which may not always be performed given the need to provide rapid response. It doesn’t matter the amount of information we may have, as it will not necessarily guarantee the probability to succeed is higher. In addition, when rationalizing, we tend to be more subjective and to look for specific information elements helping us to reaffirm our beliefs.
3) We must have a try and make mistakes. We must learn from our mistakes.
4) Let’s be more tactic rather than more strategic. We must know in which direction we are moving and think about the amount of resources we may need. We must make a difference between trend and fashion.
5) If we make many decisions, the incidence of our mistakes is much lower. If we make the right decision, we walk forward. If we don’t, we learn a lot.
6) The most important thing is that changes arise while we are walking having all five senses placed on the things happening around us.
7) Let’s use our intuitive intelligence trying to adapt it to our principles –this is called “Heart Logics”.
In his summary, José talked about the main characteristics of discoverers, and their ability to keep their eyes and ears open to understand what’s before them. As an example, José explained that the discovery of penicillin by Fleming was the result of two factors –coincidence and Fleming’s ability to understand what was going on in front of his eyes.
He also shared a sentence from the TV show Redes presented by Punset –Childhood is the R&D of human beings. Adulthood represents the marketing to sell what you have created.
In these times we are living, we must try to go back to childhood. Experience and do not be scared of making mistakes. If you fall down, stand up and start again. This is basically the “forward-walkism” I have talked about in other posts.
Is this somehow related to what José told us? If José read these lines, he would probably think it is not. But I swear all my thoughts are the result of José’s words plus my own opinion.
Any comments? I am open to read your opinions and learn from them. I’ll try to continue offering you the knowledge I acquire.
Go “forward-walkers”, go!
This post in Spanish: Decidir en tiempos de incertidumbre
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