It’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Almost all consequential events in history come from the unexpected, the unpredicted, and – as Taleb argues – the unpredictable. Still, we humans convince ourselves these are explainable in hindsight.
It’s true whether we’re talking about the Internet or the Laser or the recent mortgage crisis or the tragedy of 9/11. It’s why I place so little faith in the oft-quoted projections for radio and its competitors which extend twenty years into an absolutely unknowable future.
So while you can’t predict what will happen you can put yourself into a position to benefit or at least not to be harmed by what happens. Taleb’s advice is this:
Random tinkering is the path to success. And fortunately, we are increasingly learning to practice it without knowing it–thanks to overconfident entrepreneurs, naive investors, greedy investment bankers, confused scientists and aggressive venture capitalists brought together by the free-market system. We need more tinkering: Uninhibited, aggressive, proud tinkering. We need to make our own luck. We can be scared and worried about the future, or we can look at it as a collection of happy surprises that lie outside the path of our imagination.
Is your Internet strategy experimental enough? Or do you wait until your tactics can pay for themselves before trying them?
Do you seek out stories which spin good news for radio? Or do you look to create the future for radio, regardless of what it means for the rear-view mirror?
Do you relish the failed projections for satellite radio? Or do you recognize that the factors affecting satellite’s future will likewise affect our own?
Is it your role in your company to spike the performance short term so you can spin your assets and float safely away on a golden parachute? Or are you in it for the long run, since that’s what 100 percent of your employees and their families are in it for?
You can’t predict the future.
You can only create it.