Saturday, January 21, 2012

Napoleon on Chaos

Interesting piece in Luke Johnson's January 18, 2012 Financial Times column - - Spotting winners is not always rational:

The difference between victory and failure in commercial affairs is not random but is nevertheless heavily subject to chance and human factors such as management ability and general sentiment.  Judging risk is as much an art as a science, and external influences - from interest rates to commodity prices to competitive activity - will often decide whether a venture succeeds or fails.

In hindsight winning investment decisions appear rational and prophetic, while poor ones seem stupid.  This impression is often false.  But as Napoleon said: "The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos.  The winner will be the one who controls that chaos."

Discipline, astute timing, product financing and a sensible level of diversification may well prevent you from becoming a big winner, but will also probably ensure you do not join the ranks of the epic losers - such as entrepreneur Sean Quinn, a few years ago Ireland's richest man and now the biggest bankrupt.

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