Skin in the game

By Genevieve Cua via business.asiaone.com   Article

Failure is not an option, it’s a must

“An interview with author and thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a somewhat nerve wracking affair. He famously reserves his scorn for certain professions – journalists, for instance, to which this writer belongs – as well as economists, bankers and academics. That is, anyone who has no ‘skin in the game’; opinion makers who prognosticate or make forecasts and are not held to account for their views. Those who invest on the views of this hapless group take on all the risk and downside.

On the opposite end are ‘heroes’ who bear the disadvantages and risks for others’ sake; they have ‘soul in the game’. Entrepreneurs, soldiers and investigative journalists rank high in his world view. His model for ‘soul in the game’ is his father. In his latest book Antifragile, he recounts an incident during the Lebanese civil war when a militiaman insulted his father, who refused to obey the soldier’s orders. As his father drove away, he was shot in the back, and the bullet remained in his chest for the rest of his life. Mr Taleb writes: ‘This set the bar very high for me. Dignity is worth nothing unless you earn it, unless you are willing to pay the price for it.’ …

‘What I’m saying is a bit controversial for you guys, given the respect you have for education. It’s good to have a class of people who are educated. But education is the enemy of entrepreneurship. If you start having a high level of education, you start hiring people based on school success. School success is predictive of future school success. You hire an A student if you want them to take an exam, but you want other things like street smarts. This gets repressed if you emphasise too-much education.'”

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