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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 662-663

Dance with Chance - Making luck work for you

Department of Operations Research, The Royal Statistical Society, London, United Kingdom, and President, Nuvis Analytics Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication29-Jan-2013

Correspondence Address:
C R Sridhar
Department of Operations Research, The Royal Statistical Society, London, United Kingdom, and President, Nuvis Analytics Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Sridhar C R. Dance with Chance - Making luck work for you. J Can Res Ther 2012;8:662-3

How to cite this URL:
Sridhar C R. Dance with Chance - Making luck work for you. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Jun 25];8:662-3. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2012/8/4/662/106598

Editors: Spyros Makridakis, et al.
Publisher: One World Publications
Year: 2010
Price Rs. 399.00

'Dance with Chance' is a neatly choreographed book about the role played by chance in life and the consequences of ignoring it. Written by three professors from three different business schools, the book presents a strong case for including chance in our day to day decision making. Once we include the 'chance' element in our decision making, the 'illusion of control' vanishes. Paradoxically, by giving up the 'illusion of control' we get a better 'control' on a decision-making situation. The authors discuss three areas of human activity where we confront decision-making under uncertainty. These are: Medicine, Money, and the Mundane.

The authors make a strong argument for taking a second opinion in medical situations because according to them Medicine is not an exact science and the treatment given at any time is based on the available knowledge at that time. The treatment may not be effective at all. Further, medical errors are abundant and surveys in United States indicate that medical errors are the third largest cause of deaths. No drug or surgery gives a 100% guarantee that the patient will be cured, and chance plays a huge role in both patient recovery as well as death. Medicine has identified a number of risk factors that affect the life span of an individual, but there are no conclusive numbers on the effects of hyper-tension, high cholesterol etc, on the longevity of a human being. Almost every day there is new research that contradicts an earlier finding. Also, a set of symptoms and laboratory reports are interpreted by different medical professionals differently and these opinions vary also from country to country. The authors maintain that Medical Science is evolving and, therefore, any medical advice given is based on an incomplete knowledge, hence, subject to chance. They cite a number of examples to illustrate the uncertainty involved in the field of medicine.

Another area where chance plays a huge role is the stock market. It is a well-known secret that no one can predict the stock market accurately and consistently over a long period of time. The so-called stock market experts remain experts on paper and are experts in hindsight. In fact this topic has been dealt in considerable detail by Taleb in his 'Fooled by Randomness' and the authors of this book only confirm what Taleb had written eloquently with more examples from their professional experience. Investors continue to listen to these experts and take their advice. Why? Because, by using their advice the investors play safe with their 'Illusion of certainty'.

The third area that the authors deal with is that of experts who analyze one corporate and then come up with a 'Success Formula'. When we scan the available business books, we find a plethora of gurus peddling either excellence or instant success. It is not uncommon to find titles like 'One minute manager', 'One minute millionaire'. Most of these gurus have fallen by the way side when they were put to test. But they survive and thrive in a world that needs the illusions of both certainty and control. Unknown forces and unforeseen events drive the performance of companies but "identifying the secrets of successful companies and replicating them elsewhere is the holy grail of management gurus, consultants, and their customers." But, it is more like "searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow". This seems to be true for a lot of 'Instant' success formulas whether it is making millions or getting six pack abs.

With human beings unable to deal with uncertainty, is it possible for computers to do a better job? Statistical and mathematical models have been used for decision-making for over hundred years, especially by gamblers. The answer from the authors is a resounding 'No'. Complex mathematical and statistical models have failed to improve the performance of decisions that humans manage through intuition in many cases. However, simple models with a few variables have shown a better performance than humans in certain decision-making situations. For example: Simple thumb rules perform better than gut feel of the interviewer, when a company recruits new staff.

So where does that leave us when we need to take decisions that involve uncertainty? The authors propose a simple system. They classify all decisions into two: Repetitive and unique. Each of these can be solved in four ways - blinking, thinking, sminking, and experts. These routes are covered in detail in a single chapter with the preceding 11 chapters as the backdrop.

The first 12 chapters cover the entire content of decision-making under uncertainty and the problems of the 'Illusion of control'. The last chapter is about 'Happiness' and it really looks like it has been force fitted in to the book because the first chapter cites a survey that states that 'Happiness' is what most people want. The core of the book can be picked up and assimilated without this last chapter.

The book is very readable without too many figures or statistical jargon. The experiments and surveys cited are presented in a simple but elegant fashion. A reader can understand a lot about the 'Illusion of control' and the very understanding will help to identify situations where the decision-making techniques suggested by the authors are applicable. The techniques are simple and fun to apply, but can reveal a deeper understanding of the mind. The book is an excellent supplementary reading to the other books of this genre by Daniel Kahneman, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and Gigenrenzer.


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