Musings on personal and enterprise technology (of potential interest to professional technoids and others)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Future States blog: Swimming analogy to understand risks of overconfidence

Heard Malcolm Gladwell's outstanding presentation today (at The Art of Management conference), re: the overconfidence of experts that led to the 2008 financial crisis, as compared to the mistakes of General Joseph Hooker's overconfidence in the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville . I was reminded of an outstanding "Swim Season" Future States blog post by Demian Entrekin in his Future States blog. Both Gladwell and Entrekin suggest the very real risks of overconfidence, even by those considered experts in their fields. Here is part of Entrekin's IMHO brilliant swimming analogy (full post at

"Imagine two swimmers.

Both swimmers are trying to get from one island to another.

On the other island there is a clear destination...

Both swimmers jump into the water at the same time.

The first swimmer puts his head down and begins to swim...

The plan is to waste no time.

The plan is to keep swimming until the destination has been achieved...

The second swimmer has a different plan.

The second swimmer will take 100 strokes and then stop.

When the second swimmer stops, he will wait until he sees the destination...

The second swimmer notices that the target has moved.

The first swimmer keeps going hard and strong.

The second swimmer stops again and notices a current has taken him off course.

He makes a small adjustment and continues swimming.

The first swimmer begins to tire.

The second swimmer continues to stop and make adjustments...

The first swimmer finally decides he must stop and take his bearing.

The second swimmer sees the shore.

The first swimmer sees the two islands in the distance.

The second swimmer feels tired but also sees the end.

The first swimmer begins to swim back against the current, a sense of panic setting in.

The second swimmer reaches the shore.

The first swimmer now wonders which island is the destination."