Review: Nassim Taleb on Why Leaders Make Bad Decisions

A recent article in Advisor Perspectives provides a review of a new book by “philosopher, businessman, perpetual troublemaker and author” Nassim Nicholas Taleb entitled Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life,” a collection of essays on risk, rationality and randomness.

The lengthy review covers how Taleb draws parallels with various aspects of daily life, including investing. For example, the book discusses the Broadway-inspired heuristic knows as Lindy effect—”the idea that the age of an inanimate object is a good indicator of its future longevity.” According to Taleb, the article says, “investors would do well to understand the application of the Lindy principle to their enterprise,” citing indexing and value investing as strategies that are “unlikely to be overturned any time soon. Instead, improvements around the edges are the best we can expect.”

Another topic that the book directs specifically to investors is the differentiation between types of risk: specifically, between ensemble probability and time probability. The risk investors face, argues Taleb, involve time probability—”the state of a person’s wealth at any point in time is contingent on her wealth at the previous point in time; returns are cumulative; investing exposes us to time risk, cumulative risk.”