Voy a fastidiar de nuevo en este post a @anotado trayendo un extracto del imprescindible libro de Kahneman, Pensar rápido, pensar despacio... Aclarar que Kahneman (premio nobel de economía por su estudio sobre el proceso mental de toma de decisiones) es un defensor a ultranza de la suerte en los resultados de los sistemas complejos, y que los humanos nos atribuimos una "influencia" en esos resultados, que la ciencia demuestra que es mucho menor (cuando no inversa).
En el caso que nos atañe, se trata de un estudio que demuestra que la correlación entre un buen CEO y una empresa con buenos resultados es basntante baja (0.3). Lo cual, tal y como se explica, hace que en términos absolutos, sólo un 10% de las empresas les deben sus resultados a "buenos CEOs". Esto es duro de admitir, y para hacerlo, habría que leerse el libro entero, lo cual es casi ilusorio, pues aunque se ha convertido en una obra de referencia mundial para CASI TODO, es un tocho de 600 págs que casi sólo se pueden leer los académicos (aunque yo estoy pensando seriamente si no debería ser lectura obligada en Tc).
Ahí va el extracto (del capítulo 19, The illusion of understanding):
Recipes for Success
The sense-making machinery of System 1 makes us see the world as more tidy, simple, predictable, and coherent than it really is. The illusion that one has understood the past feeds the further illusion that one can predict and control the future. These illusions are comforting. They reduce the anxiety that we would experience if we allowed ourselves to fully acknowledge the uncertainties of existence. We all have a need for the reassuring message that actions have appropriate consequences, and that success will reward wisdom and courage. Many business books are tailor-made to satisfy this need.
Do leaders and management practices influence the outcomes of firms in the market? Of course they do, and the effects have been confirmed by systematic research that objectively assessed the characteristics of CEOs and their decisions, and related them to subsequent outcomes of the firm. In one study, the CEOs were characterized by the strategy of the companies they had led before their current appointment, as well as by management rules and procedures adopted after their appointment. CEOs do influence performance, but the effects are much smaller than a reading of the business press suggests.
Researchers measure the strength of relationships by a correlation coefficient, which varies between 0 and 1. The coefficient was defined earlier (in relation to regression to the mean) by the extent to which two measures are determined by shared factors. A very generous estimate of the correlation between the success of the firm and the quality of its CEO might be as high as .30, indicating 30% overlap. To appreciate the significance of this number, consider the following question:
Suppose you consider many pairs of firms. The two firms in each pair are generally similar, but the CEO of one of them is better than the other. How often will you find that the firm with the stronger CEO is the more successful of the two?
In a well-ordered and predictable world, the correlation would be perfect (1), and the stronger CEO would be found to lead the more successful firm in 100% of the pairs. If the relative success of similar firms was determined entirely by factors that the CEO does not control (call them luck, if you wish), you would find the more successful firm led by the weaker CEO 50% of the time. A correlation of .30 implies that you would find the stronger CEO leading the stronger firm in about 60% of the pairs—an improvement of a mere 10 percentage points over random guessing, hardly grist for the hero worship of CEOs we so often witness.
If you expected this value to be higher—and most of us do—then you should take that as an indication that you are prone to overestimate the predictability of the world you live in. Make no mistake: improving the odds of success from 1:1 to 3:2 is a very significant advantage, both at the racetrack and in business. From the perspective of most business writers, however, a CEO who has so little control over performance would not be particularly impressive even if her firm did well. It is difficult to imagine people lining up at airport bookstores to buy a book that enthusiastically describes the practices of business leaders who, on average, do somewhat better than chance. Consumers have a hunger for a clear message about the determinants of success and failure in business, and they need stories that offer a sense of understanding, however illusory.
In his penetrating book The Halo Effect, Philip Rosenzweig, a business school professor based in Switzerland, shows how the demand for illusory certainty is met in two popular genres of business writing: histories of the rise (usually) and fall (occasionally) of particular individuals and companies, and analyses of differences between successful and less successful firms. He concludes that stories of success and failure consistently exaggerate the impact of leadership style and management practices on firm outcomes, and thus their message is rarely useful.
To appreciate what is going on, imagine that business experts, such as other CEOs, are asked to comment on the reputation of the chief executive of a company. They poрare keenly aware of whether the company has recently been thriving or failing. As we saw earlier in the case of Google, this knowledge generates a halo. The CEO of a successful company is likely to be called flexible, methodical, and decisive. Imagine that a year has passed and things have gone sour. The same executive is now described as confused, rigid, and authoritarian. Both descriptions sound right at the time: it seems almost absurd to call a successful leader rigid and confused, or a struggling leader flexible and methodical.
Indeed, the halo effect is so powerful that you probably find yourself resisting the idea that the same person and the same behaviors appear methodical when things are going well and rigid when things are going poorly. Because of the halo effect, we get the causal relationship backward: we are prone to believe that the firm fails because its CEO is rigid, when the truth is that the CEO appears to be rigid because the firm is failing. This is how illusions of understanding are born.
The halo effect and outcome bias combine to explain the extraordinary appeal of books that seek to draw operational morals from systematic examination of successful businesses. One of the best-known examples of this genre is Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras’s Built to Last. The book contains a thorough analysis of eighteen pairs of competing companies, in which one was more successful than the other. The data for these comparisons are ratings of various aspects of corporate culture, strategy, and management practices. “We believe every CEO, manager, and entrepreneur in the world should read this book,” the authors proclaim. “You can build a visionary company.”
The basic message of Built to Last and other similar books is that good managerial practices can be identified and that good practices will be rewarded by good results. Both messages are overstated. The comparison of firms that have been more or less successful is to a significant extent a comparison between firms that have been more or less lucky. Knowing the importance of luck, you should be particularly suspicious when highly consistent patterns emerge from the comparison of successful and less successful firms. In the presence of randomness, regular patterns can only be mirages.
Because luck plays a large role, the quality of leadership and management practices cannot be inferred reliably from observations of success. And even if you had perfect foreknowledge that a CEO has brilliant vision and extraordinary competence, you still would be unable to predict how the company will perform with much better accuracy than the flip of a coin. On average, the gap in corporate profitability and stock returns between the outstanding firms and the less successful firms studied in Built to Last shrank to almost nothing in the period following the study. The average profitability of the companies identified in the famous In Search of Excellence dropped sharply as well within a short time. A study of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” finds that over a twenty-year period, the firms with the worst ratings went on to earn much higher stock returns than the most admired firms.
You are probably tempted to think of causal explanations for these observations: perhaps the successful firms became complacent, the less successful firms tried harder. But this is the wrong way to think about what happened. The average gap must shrink, because the original gap was due in good part to luck, which contributed both to the success of the top firms and to the lagging performance of the rest. We have already encountered this statistical fact of life: regression to the mean.
Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too eager to believe them.
He dejado el final, para contradecirme en el largo debate con @Gonzalo sobre el tema de los libros de Management. Yo soy fan tb de Collins, pero no de ese libro que Kahneman desguaza, sino del siguiente: "Good to Great", el cual tiene un valor diferente, que sólo entraré a debatir, si alguien muestra interés real...