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Распутывая узел мастерства и удачи

В статье приводятся причины, по которым лишь немногие люди понимают относительный вклад в успех (или неуспех) своего мастерства и удачи: психологическая защита и неумение измерять сделанное. Автор статьи утверждает, что бизнесу следует фокусироваться скорее на работе над своими навыками, и приводит аргументы, полезные для понимания бизнес-лидерами роли мастерства и удачи: всегда сравнивать результат с нулевой моделью, отражающую удачу: возврат к среднему значению системы, соединяющей навыки и удачу; компенсационные пакеты не должны зависеть от капризов рынка; найм «звезд» не всегда отвечает ожиданиям.

For almost two centuries, Spain has hosted an enormously popular Christmas lottery. Based on the payout, it is the biggest lottery in the world and nearly all Spaniards play. In the mid-1970s, a man sought a ticket that ended in 48. He found a ticket, bought it, and won the lottery. When asked why he was so intent on finding that number, he replied, "I dreamed of the number seven for seven nights. And seven times seven is 48."

The outcomes for many activities in life — including sports, business, and investing — combine skill and luck. Most of us understand and accept this statement, but there are two good reasons why few of us understand the relative contributions of each. The first reason is psychological. When we enjoy a good outcome due to luck, we are naturally inclined to chalk up our success to skill. Similarly, if we suffer an adverse outcome because of poor skill, we blame our bad luck. I recall an acquaintance who won big one Saturday night playing slot machines. The next week he solicited friends to build his bankroll, convinced he had devised a winning formula. Needless to say, Lady Fortuna stopped smiling and he returned his gains, along with the money of his credulous sponsors, to the house. We have psychological defense mechanisms that blur our view of the relative role of skill and luck.

The second reason has to do with how we measure performance. We have a strong tendency to dwell on outcomes without considering the role of process. Take baseball hitting statistics as an example. Some measures, including strikeout ratio, reveal a great deal about the hitter's skill, while batting average, a more popular measure, includes a great deal of randomness. We need to find performance measures that reflect skill, or elements of the outcome that we can control.

Businesspeople who want to incorporate the roles of skill and luck into their decision making must take some concrete steps. The first is to define the terms. We will define skill as "the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance" and luck as "events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual." Think of skill as a process.

Next, we need to understand where an activity falls on a continuum from pure skill/no luck on one extreme to no skill/pure luck on the other. For instance, running races are nearly all skill — the fastest runner wins — and roulette wheels are all luck. Everything else is somewhere between the extremities. Quantifying where your activity sits is enormously useful in assessing past outcomes and for making decisions about the future.

Here are some specific ways that understanding the role of skill and luck can be useful for business leaders:

A decade ago, Nassim Taleb raised awareness about the role of luck through his best-selling book, Fooled by Randomness. It is now time to take the next step by quantifying the relative contributions of skill and luck and tailoring business practices to focus on the contribution of skill.

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