You can’t predict anything

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —May 25, 2007
Filed in Business storytelling

Chris Anderson has listed his 5 top business books and I was struck by this explanation of why you must read Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Taleb.

Why it’s a must-read: “The book says that you can’t predict anything—that when things happen, you try to construct a narrative around what happened, and that narrative is almost always wrong. Why is the market up today? Because home sales did such and such. It’s almost never why, but we need to have an explanation. If managers can check themselves from making those all-too-tempting efforts to construct narratives, fundamentally they will have an advantage over the rest of us.”

This thinking is flawed. The idea that we can consciously put a stopper in our habit of creating stories to explain what is happening is as impossible as the ability to predict the future in detail in a complex system. Here’s an alternative, why don’t we work to understand how stories create meaning and insight and then look to ways of harnessing our innate storytelling nature.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. ken says:

    It sounds like you’re saying Chris has provided an example of what Taleb now calls the Narrative Fallacy?

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