Nick Schulz interviews Jim Manzi about Manzi’s forthcoming book Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society. Excerpt from the interview:
We are all, to some extent, the prisoners of our experience. Like everyone, my experiences have surely created numerous biases to which, by definition, I am blind. But I have drawn some conscious lessons from my various jobs. Mostly, I suppose they relate to humility about how much harder it is to get anything done out there in the world than it seems like it ought to be when you read about it in a book or discuss it in a conference room.
A good example is that I think that most mainstream economists radically underestimate the importance in any business of what in another context Carl von Clausewitz called “friction.” Headquarters rarely knows what is going on in the field; people in frontline positions have little idea of the big picture, and react to local conditions as best they can; entrepreneurs are mostly making it up as they go, and so on. Economists are of course aware of this issue conceptually, but their attempts to incorporate it into their models of the firm and the economy are inadequate in the extreme. As compared to mainstream economic doctrine, therefore, I believe that uncertainty plays a far bigger role in real world decision-making, that quantitative models of the economy are less useful as guides to action, and that trial-and-error learning as embodied in existing institutions and practices is more important.
(via Grim’s Hall)