You are probably wrong about everything

A few weeks ago, on LinkedIn, I pointed to an article from The Guardian that suggested that “You are probably wrong about everything”. Bobby Duffy makes the case that what you think you know, and what the facts really are, often do not match up. Then I started reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a book about Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants and already in the first chapter, a similar theme emerged.

I thought it best to just quote it here.

“Suppose you had to tally up all the wars over the past 200 years, that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side has to be at least ten times as large in population and armed might than the other. How often do you think the bigger side wins? Most of us will put that number at close to 100%. A ten fold difference is a lot. But the actual answer may surprise you. When the political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did the calculation a few years ago, he came up with 71,5%. Just under a third of the time the weaker country wins. Arreguín-Toft then asked the question slightly differently. What happens in wars between the strong and the weak, when the weak side did as David did, and refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight, using unconventional or guerilla tactics. The answer, in those cases, the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28,5% to 63,6%. To put that in perspective, the United state’s population is ten times the size of Canada’s. If the two countries went to war, and Canada chose to fight unconventionally, history would suggest that you ought to put your money on Canada.”

Food for thought when you’re planning or writing up your next strategy. Find the facts, because as you can see, you are probably wrong about everything.