What does this have to do with business books? These influential authors assume that their “successful” companies (many of which are now out of business) are fundamentally better than less successful companies. Thus, they spend lots of ink trying to reverse-engineer the ingredients of corporate success, the traits that lead to high profit margins and stock prices. But what if those ingredients are contextual? What if success is a matter of luck and good timing? What if the temporary rise of a stock doesn’t mean anything?
The larger point, of course, is that humans are terrible at acknowledging the (omni)presence of contingency and chance.
Jonah Lehrer ponders the Fundamental Attribution Error: