The 5 Minute Tech Break : Feb 22

Happy Friday

A gorgeous blast of spring sunshine here in London and, with it being Friday ... all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds

This week has seen a real surge of interest in CTO Academy and so, we welcome all new customers and subscribers to this, the weekly '5 Minute Tech Break'.

Hope you enjoy the read.


How to manage with compassion

Managing people is always challenging but often the biggest challenges are how to help good people, through tough times.  Indeed, how to recognise when good people are facing tough times.  

This article was written last year but has proven to be one of the most popular blog posts.  It looks at some of the issues involved when managing a team .... Everyone is a bit broken, so learn how to manage with compassion

Predicting 50 Unicorns

CB Insights produce an interesting newsletter, covering movers and shakers in the tech world.

Recently, in collaboration with the New York Times, they put together a list of 50 companies they believe could go all Unicorn on us (companies they think will eventually be valued at $1B or more).

Interesting to see who they've picked and from which sectors.

Interesting to see how many of them will make that fabled status.

Survivor Bias and Why Business Books Suck

In a recent investor meeting, I was reminded about the topic of survivor bias when the investor reeled off the successful investments they've made over the years.  What he didn't mention, were the ones that fell off a cliff.

Survivor bias is making a decision based on only one side of the facts. A famous case and perhaps the original source of 'survivor bias' is from world war two, when aircraft that came back from missions were reinforced where the damage was most concentrated.

During World War II, the statistician Abraham Wald took survivorship bias into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. Researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses had conducted a study of the damage done to aircraft that had returned from missions, and had recommended that armor be added to the areas that showed the most damage.  Wald noted that the study only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions—the bombers that had been shot down were not present for the damage assessment. 

The holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely. Wald proposed that the Navy reinforce areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed. Since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost. His work is considered seminal in the then-nascent discipline of operational research.

Self help and business books are another area that suffer badly from survivor bias.  Books are generally written by the few winners, telling stories of how they made it.  What you don't hear is from the many hundreds of losers and where they failed.  

With investors there is a general rule of thumb that out of 10 investments, 7 go 'belly up', 2 return their money and 1 does really well.   That's if they're lucky!  [Jason]

Conspiracy or Cock-Up? .. Mental Model To Consider

The world seems to be swimming against a tide of conspiracy theorists at the moment.  

My view is they're normally more about cock-up, than conspiracy.

Hanlon's Razor states that we should not attribute to malice, that which is more easily explained by stupidity.  In a complex world, this principle helps us avoid extreme paranoia and ideology, often very hard to escape from, by not generally assuming that bad results are the fault of a bad actor, although they can be. More likely, a mistake or cock-up has been made.

Quote of the Week

"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful" - John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity, Technology, Business, Life

Friends, colleagues, customers and CTO Academists ...

That's a wrap.  Another week done.  Love your family and have a wonderful, safe and happy weekend.

For you insatiable types who can't get enough of our '5 minute tech breaks', go visit our archives.

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