Management Advice From George Eliot

Fancy what a game of chess would be if all the chessman had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but a little uncertain also about your own . . . You would be especially likely to be beaten if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt. Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with a game man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for instruments.

–George Eliot, in Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)

Lots of political leaders and their academic advisors, and also more than a few business executives, fail to understand this point about the kind of “chess” that they are playing.

See also investing advice from George Eliot.

4 thoughts on “Management Advice From George Eliot”

  1. It seems unreal that they’re proposing that the trial of the sheik mohammed (the 9/11 conspirator) take place in criminal court, (with full civil rights in place) in New York, instead of in military tribunal at Guantanamo. It seems an incredible political misstep.

    This administration not only misunderstands the human elements but, even further, cannot understand the simple aspects of war, peace, and justice. The “mathematical imagination” of those in power is badly skewed.

  2. A good analogy except that I would say were playing poker instead of chess.

    Chess is a dangerous analogy for any real world action because in chess the players have perfect information about the state of the board. The rules are well known. The only mystery in chess is what the other player will do next. Absolutely nothing is unknown except what the other player will do next.

    Poker is a better analogy for life. Poker is a game about dealing with unknowns. Not only does each player have to guess what the other players will do but none of the players know the complete state of the deck. Each player sees a different set of cards so each player has a different perspective on each hand. Each player has a different pot and different goals with each hand. Even the players and the number of players can change as the game evolves.

  3. Tyouth, it’s not an incredible political misstep if you consider it a way to put the Bush administration and its policies on trial.

    On the other hand, if he is acquitted, it will seem to have been a serious misstep, since they will have to release him (and probably find someone else to arrest him). Already it is hard to understand how they miss the obvious outcome – given a future choice of bombing, say, a remote installation or another US city, why not choose the city and thus arrogate to yourself all the constitutional protections that only citizens used to have, and get the high-priced free representation? It’s a guarantee that anyone who can hit is here, will.

  4. Simon, Maybe you’re right but (the slow learning) U. S. electorate seem to be catching on to this politically motivated admin. Actions that are baldly politically motivated to the detriment of other rational motivations will be noted. Hopefully, in the end, bad “mathematical imagination” will be bad politics for this administration.

    BTW, Attorney General Holder argues that trying KSM in New York upholds a legal tradition about trying a perp at the locale where the crime occurred. Is he serious or does he think is sounds good? This is some lame since it is hardly legal bedrock. Trying a case at the victim’s AND THE PERP’S locale was simple practicality (in days gone by) in terms of shared local culture, communications, and transportation, and is not an over-riding legal principle.

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