Sunday, August 02, 2009

Maybe self-esteem training...

Is counterproductive.  It looks more and more like overconfidence has played a major role in our current financial mess. We just barely recognize the effect.
Most people are inclined to use moral terms to describe overconfidence—terms like “arrogance” or “hubris.” But psychologists tend to regard overconfidence as a state as much as a trait. The British at Gallipoli were victims of a situation that promoted overconfidence. Langer didn’t say that it was only arrogant gamblers who upped their bets in the presence of the schnook. She argues that this is what competition does to all of us; because ability makes a difference in competitions of skill, we make the mistake of thinking that it must also make a difference in competitions of pure chance. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. As novices, we don’t trust our judgment. Then we have some success, and begin to feel a little surer of ourselves. Finally, we get to the top of our game and succumb to the trap of thinking that there’s nothing we can’t master. As we get older and more experienced, we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments, especially when the task before us is difficult and when we’re involved with something of great personal importance. The British were overconfident at Gallipoli not because Gallipoli didn’t matter but, paradoxically, because it did; it was a high-stakes contest, of daunting complexity, and it is often in those circumstances that overconfidence takes root. [More]

It's not that I see a huge upsurge in overconfidence in agriculture, unless it be at the top of large operations. Perhaps this is because virtually nobody has had a good turn of predicting prices, etc. in our business.  But the problem of mistaking luck for ability is pandemic in our profession, I think.

Contrary to Gladwell's assertion, I'm becoming less confident in my judgment, not more.  Furthermore, I now ascribe to wild-ass luck many accomplishments I had filed under "competence".

The result is a troubling failure of nerve, and one powerful reason not to have nervous geezers like me making operational decisions. Without some overconfidence, there would be far fewer disastrous mistakes and hence fewer chances to learn how to weather them, or discover problems we never suspected.

Overconfidence may have risen to unworkable levels in our business leadership, but there will always be the chance of reward even for those who don't truly recognize the odds. If they are surrounded by terminally cautious competitors, those who get lucky will be quite lucky indeed.

Given the sharp turn to caution I detect in my sector (and experience myself) we could be setting the stage for operators who still possess unwarranted confidence, simply because they will actually try something.

1 comment:

Ol James said...

Basically the Southern equivalent of.."Hey yall, watch this!!" Either way Bubba's got a 50/50 chance. I believe, even with skill it could be hit or miss.Ya go to the hospital or the bank.