Survivorship Bias: Why Overlooking Failures Might Lead to Faulty Conclusions Survivorship Bias: Why Overlooking Failures Might Lead to Faulty Conclusions
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Have you ever found yourself looking at successful people or companies and thinking, "I want to be like them"? It's a natural tendency—we often seek inspiration and guidance from those who have achieved great things. But there's a hidden trap in this approach called "survivorship bias". It happens when we only pay attention to the winners—the ones who made it through—and ignore the countless others who tried and failed along the way. By doing this, we're missing out on important lessons and insights that could help us make better decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

Let's break it down a bit. The term "survivorship bias" actually has its roots in World War II. Back then, analysts were trying to figure out how to make planes safer by studying the ones that came back from missions. But here's the problem—they were only looking at the survivors. They completely ignored the planes that didn't make it back. This led to flawed conclusions about how to improve aircraft resilience because they were missing crucial information from the planes that got shot down.

This same mistake happens in other areas of life too. In business, we often study successful companies and entrepreneurs to learn their secrets. But what about all the failed startups and businesses that didn't make it? By focusing only on the success stories, we're not getting the full picture of what it takes to succeed. The same goes for personal development, we might admire people who have achieved greatness without realizing the struggles and setbacks they faced along the way.

So, why is survivorship bias such a big deal? Well, for one thing, it can lead us to draw the wrong conclusions about why someone or something succeeded. We might think it was all due to a particular strategy or trait, when in reality, there were other factors at play. This can make us overconfident in our own abilities and decisions, which can be dangerous.

Another problem is that by ignoring failure, we're missing out on important information about potential risks and pitfalls. Whether we're investing money or starting a new project, understanding failure is crucial for making informed decisions and managing risks.

So, how do we avoid falling into the trap of survivorship bias? One way is to acknowledge and learn from failure. Instead of seeing it as a bad thing, we should embrace it as a natural part of the learning process. We can also seek out diverse perspectives and data points, including both successes and failures. This helps us get a more balanced view of reality and avoid making the same mistakes as others.

In the end, survivorship bias is a reminder that success isn't just about luck or talent, it's also about learning from failure and being open to different perspectives. By keeping this in mind, we can make better decisions and increase our chances of success in whatever we do.

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Robert Kamunde
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Robert Kamunde

A Data Enthusiast

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