The Illusion of Control: Dancing with Chance


First you accept that there are things you can’t control. Then you try to assess the uncertainty and finally augment your plan to make sure you manage risk more effectively.

That means using models, independent opinions, internal and external advice and any other means to assess the unknown risks and to make your business nimble and open to change when the unexpected happens.

“You are better off focusing your energy on planning for the range of possibilities that could actually happen.”

For example, he says it’s very difficult to tell which start-up businesses will be successful in the early stages. If you accept that, a better strategy is to try to diversify over a number of projects just as venture capitalists do. Not all the projects will pay off but you diversify your risk so that you have a better chance of nurturing one that will succeed.

Chance and randomness play a significant role in business and in our lives. “The point is not that the world is hopeless and you shouldn’t do anything, it’s just that we should do a more careful assessment of what we can predict and what we can’t predict. And where we can’t predict then the effort and the resources are better spent on planning,” Gaba told INSEAD Knowledge.

“Instead of trying to predict this, which you actually cannot, you are better off spending your resources and effort on planning for various contingencies.”

And when it comes to managing risk in investing, the authors have pillars of wisdom: “Be average. Be patient. Be risk aware. Be balanced.”

Another vantage to consider? “What can we learn from expert gamblers?”:

Note: Shout to Jim Byers for the INSEAD piece.