The Survivor Bias and Best Practices

A common method of research consists of first identifying the successful countries or people who have achieved something we wish to be able to do ourselves.  We locate the superstars of teaching, science,or entrepreneurship. Next we try to isolate the characteristics possessed by those who are successful. Armed with this new “knowledge”, we feel enlightened.  If we only imitate those behaviors, we will ourselves achieve our dream accomplishments.

Management and Education literature is especially guilty of misleading readers about “best practices”, using precisely the logic I just described.

See the problem?  Look at Michael Shermer’s article in the August Scientific American.

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