Sunday, October 2, 2005

Learning from one or fewer

Potential pieces of theory for my upcoming paper on multiple entrepreneurs . . . and yes, I spend all my time recently reading papers written 20 years ago.

"Near-histories are useful antidotes to a tendency to over generalize from the drama of great disasters or victories (Fischhoff 1982). For example, students of the Battle of Midway have suggested a number of quite likely alternative scenarios for that battle that would have led to notably different outcomes (Prange 1982). Future admirals learn not only from the battle but also from its near-histories. Standardfolkloric observations that great failures often are the consequence of bad luck or timing and great successes the consequence of good luck or timing suggest an implicit distribution of possible outcomes around the observed outliers. They emphasize that the near-histories of genius and foolishness are more similar than their realized histories."

-- from March, Sproull, and Tamuz 1991 - titled "Learning from Samples of One or Fewer", published in Organization Science