Survivorship Bias: The Tale of Forgotten Failures

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Sep 30, 2023

3 min read


Survivorship Bias: The Tale of Forgotten Failures

Retire In Progress - My Story Chapter 9c – Hooli: Inevitable Corporate BS

In today's world, where success stories dominate the headlines and social media feeds, we often fall victim to survivorship bias. This logical error distorts our understanding of the world by leading us to believe that success tells the whole story. We become engrossed in the tales of triumph and overlook the forgotten failures that paved the way to success.

One prime example of survivorship bias can be found in the corporate world, as illustrated in the story of Hooli. In Chapter 9c of "Retire In Progress," the author sheds light on the corporate culture that values metrics above all else. Hooli, a fictional company, is portrayed as a place where diversity of thought is frowned upon, and employees are expected to conform to an algorithmic box.

But why is diversity of thought so crucial for a company's success? The author argues that innovative ideas can only flourish when individuals with unique perspectives come together. However, Hooli's obsession with metrics stifles this diversity, as it prioritizes measurable outcomes over the wisdom of what to measure. In this way, the ability to measure becomes more important than the value of the metric itself.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to Hooli or the corporate world. Survivorship bias can seep into various aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to decision-making processes. We are often drawn to success stories that align with our desired outcomes, disregarding the failures and setbacks that are an integral part of the journey.

To combat the detrimental effects of survivorship bias, it is essential to broaden our perspective and consider the forgotten failures. By acknowledging and learning from past mistakes, we can gain a more realistic understanding of the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead.

Here are three actionable pieces of advice to help navigate the pitfalls of survivorship bias:

  • 1. Embrace Failure: Instead of viewing failure as a reflection of incompetence, reframe it as a stepping stone to success. Failures provide valuable lessons and opportunities for growth. By embracing failure and learning from it, we can develop a more resilient mindset that is better equipped to handle future challenges.
  • 2. Seek Diverse Perspectives: Surround yourself with individuals who think differently and challenge your assumptions. By embracing diversity of thought, you can expose yourself to new ideas and approaches that may have been overlooked. This can lead to more innovative solutions and a broader understanding of the world.
  • 3. Look Beyond Success Stories: When consuming information or making decisions, be mindful of survivorship bias. Seek out a variety of perspectives, including those that highlight failures and setbacks. By considering the whole picture, you can make more informed choices and avoid falling into the trap of assuming success tells the whole story.

In conclusion, survivorship bias is a pervasive logical error that distorts our understanding of the world. It leads us to focus solely on success stories and overlook the forgotten failures that are often the stepping stones to success. By embracing failure, seeking diverse perspectives, and looking beyond the surface, we can overcome survivorship bias and gain a more nuanced view of the world. So, let us remember the forgotten failures and learn from them as we navigate our own paths to success.

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