Tag Archives: Iran

Recent Forecasting Questions as Follow-up to Superforecasting

Those of you who attended or have listened to the synopsis I gave on Superforecasting:  The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlcok and Dan Gardner (Crown Books, 2016) at the First Friday Book Synopsis are aware that you can participate in the Good Judgment project by clicking HERE.

Here is a follow-up with some of the questions that participants are forecasting:

Newly Published Questions

Most Forecasted Questions

Do We Really Want to be Reminded?

A new book that has received recent critical acclaim is former President Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

You can read this description on Amazon.com:  “Each day during his presidency, Jimmy Carter made several entries in a private diary, recording his thoughts, impressions, delights, and frustrations. He offered unvarnished assessments of cabinet members, congressmen, and foreign leaders; he narrated the progress of secret negotiations such as those that led to the Camp David Accords. When his four-year term came to an end in early 1981, the diary amounted to more than five thousand pages. But this extraordinary document has never been made public—until now…..By carefully selecting the most illuminating and relevant entries, Carter has provided us with an astonishingly intimate view of his presidency…. Thirty years after the fact, he has annotated the diary with his candid reflections on the people and events that shaped his presidency, and on the many lessons learned.”

I guess that depends upon how depressed you want to be, and the value you personally place on learning from mistakes so you don’t repeat them.

President Carter was an expert in energy and initiated programs in that field that are still developing today.  He boldly worked toward peace in the Middle East, and we will not forget the images of himself with Menachem Begin and Andwar Sadat.

However, my guess is that most Americans remember his errors more.  We did not return him to the White House for a second term.  In fact, he almost lost his own party’s nomination in 1980 when challenged by Senator Ted Kennedy, which would be a remarkable event if attempted today.

For all he did well, he also presided over extreme inflation and  massively high interest rates.   He did not win fans from the sports world by removing American athletes from the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.  He unsuccessfully tried to level the office with the working American  by wearing blue jeans in the White House, and using a photograph instead of an oil painted portrait for his official picture.  He redefined the American motto, “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” by opening our borders to Cubans who were criminals and mentally ill.   He angered the Iranian people by toasting the Shah at a New Year’s Dinner, then he could not successfully obtain the release of American hostages, who were held for 444 days.

Every United States President has had accomplishments and also has made mistakes.  Carter was no different.  Some consider him the worst American President we have ever had.  I don’t know about that.  Who am I to make that judgment? 

Perhaps you will consider this book insightful, or perhaps you will find it self-serving.  Regardless,  I just don’t know that we need or want to be reminded.  It will be interesting to watch how well it sells.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!

The Failure of Management – Almost an Intentional Blindness to Reality

The things you can read on an airplane.

David Champion is a senior Editor at Harvard Business Review.  U S Air ran his article How the Gambler Kings Brought Down the Financial House.  (read it here).    He looks back to the book, Barbarians at the Gate, and gives brief treatments of the newer books House of Cards (about Bear Stearns) and A Colossal Failure of Common Sense (about Lehman Brothers).  As I read the article, it seemed to me that the real problem – not new, and not unique to the financial sector — is an almost intentional blindness to reality by far too many leaders and their companies.  Here’s the gripping, concluding paragraph from his article:

Both books left me depressed. They are, at heart, celebrations of the hero gambler. It’s as if the concept of management and the reality of Wall Street were mutually exclusive. Advisory groups and executive committees are presented essentially as rubber stamps for the leadership; they assumed an important role only after the leaders’ mistakes became apparent. If these books offer a fair representation of how a Wall Street investment bank operates, not much has really changed over the past 100 years. Will it ever?

Why such colossal failure?  Part of the blame has to go to our universities.  What kind of education produced these kinds of people?  (I’ve written earlier about the decline of the humanities, prompted by an article in Harper’s – which I think contributes to this).

But part of the answer has to be this:  Unless there is genuine regulation and oversight, we simply cannot expect truly better days.  If we expect companies, and leaders of these companies, to do the “right things” out of the goodness of their own hearts, then we are blind ourselves.  History reveals that without genuine guardians, people will go around and abuse whatever system is in place.

We woke up this morning to the news that Iran has secretly built another nuclear facility, without proper and expected international inspection.  They are not too keen on letting inspectors in.  It is as though they said, “trust us and we will do the right things.”

Ronald Reagan was a huge opponent of regulation, but in one arena, he knew we needed it.  Well, maybe it’s time for all of us to embrace and follow Ronald Reagan’s advice, in business as well as in international nuclear relations:  “Trust, but verify.”

Barbarians at the Gate A Colossal Failure
House of Cards

A Tribute to Neda

Cheryl offers: The world has been transfixed by the image of a young 27 year old Iranian woman dying in the recent presidential election protests.  I must admit, I cannot bring myself to view the video because it hits too close to home.  My own daughter is 27. However, it has been the topic of conversation for days now everywhere I go.  This was a woman of courage, conviction, and strength.

 In fact, in the few photos coming from Iran, I’ve seen the faces of many women adding their voices  to the protests.  It brought to mind the story about other strong, determined women documented in the book Followership by Barbara Kellerman.   In February 1943, the German Gestapo had arrested about ten thousand Jews. While most were sent immediately to Auschwitz, about two thousand were detained in Berlin on a street named Rosenstrasse. These were men married to non-Jewish women.  As the news of the arrests circulated across Berlin, hundreds of women gathered in protest, shouting “Give us our husbands back!”  Less than a week later, Goebbels himself issued an order that released not only their Jewish husbands, but also their children who had been taken. Who knew the Nazis ever backed down?  Who knew it could be because women joined forces to create real change?

 Being rational, physically strong, assertive, ambitious, confident, analytical, and courageous are words frequently used to describe great leaders.  They are also words I would use to describe the actions of women like Neda and the Rosenstrasse protesters. Recently I heard someone say a sign of leadership was someone who could “See a need; fill a need.”  Indeed, Neda has shown us all how that is done.  

 Sara adds:  Amen.