When I read a wonderful quote from Mark Twain a few days ago, my mind flashed back to my recent missive Be Curious. The quote started off the current copy of the exceptional newsletter that Paul Sloate, CEO of Green Drake Advisors, sends out regularly. Sloate is a great financial thinker and writer with a wonderful sense of humor and slant on how what’s going on in the world affects financial issues and your investments.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain
Twain has added a twist to my commentary on the poor decision making that comes from thinking you know everything. Those who aren’t caught in the ridiculous conceit that they know everything still can easily wind up with the same problem: poor decision making based on an inability to realize that what you think you know might be wrong.
I’m often struck by the way that experienced and successful executives become so confident in their infallibility that they drive their organization over the cliff. They forget that each decision they make is a unique event. Making some, or even a lot, of good decisions in the past does not mean that all your decisions going forward will be as good.
Often the opposite seems to be true. Taking off on Twain’s thought, too many good decisions in a row leads to your knowing for sure things that are no longer true. Basing decisions on things no longer true is the path to destruction.
Too many become stuck in their knowledge. They become unable to realize that it’s not that it would be nice to learn more, it’s a necessity. What you know that often worked well in the past now leads you into becoming a sad story in the history books.
Too many executives spend their resources trying to hold off the future. Instead of getting in front of the curve and using their extensive resources to lead the way they’re being dragged kicking and screaming down the trail. Being dragged kicking and screaming means letting others race past you, letting others build the future and grab the business and profits going forward.
It reminds me of Blackberry. Knowing that they had the best cell phone in the world led their executives into making horrible decisions and so giving the future to Apple and others.
Giving away the future…a recipe for disaster.
My old Blackberry