Cognitive blind-spots of Silicon Valley successes


That never works.

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‘Correct overgeneralization’? Isn’t that just a generalization?

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I imagine a lot of context is missing, in two distinct contexts: we’re missing the context of the presentation in which these bullet points were discussed; and, I suspect the slides didn’t discuss the special context in which this sort of obviously flawed cognition seems effective.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs exist in an extreme of what I think of as “managerial culture”, almost totally oblivious to how coddled and privileged they are, and how many people suffer in the course of operation of capitalism and empire, to provide them with the capital that just seems to them to magically appear when they have a clever idea.


No, because there are incorrect overgeneralizations. For instance, in language development in children, saying things like “I goed” instead of “I went.” Overgeneralization based on typical past verb tense. Self-corrects.

I think what nemryn is saying is that the over part indicates that it’s incorrect. If you blindly apply your generalisation to everything and it happens to actually be accurate, it hasn’t gone over…?

Yeah, that. The ‘over’ indicates that the generalization is being applied too broadly, which is always incorrect. If it’s correct, then it’s not an 'over’generalization, and if it’s an overgeneralization, then it’s not correct.

Given the traits we’re shown, I’d bet dollars to donuts that those traits don’t universally correlate to success.

Personal Exceptionalism - That’s classic PPD stuff, it’s not generally useful, it is useful at certain levels to present an ‘air of confidence’. Useful when fighting things that shouldn’t exist, useless when it comes to anything evidence-based.

Dichotomous Thinking - Just a shortcut, and a lazy one.

Correct Overgeneralization - Again, just a shortcut. Sometimes provides some value with easy stuff, totally hangs people up when it gets complicated.

Blank Canvas Thinking - we have lots of people who think this way, and we always want some, that helps with ‘outside the box’ solutions and can be beneficial with lateral hops, but it’s difficult to know when to stand on the shoulders of giants and when not to. It takes a cautious and humble mind to manage this in any non-artistic field

Schumpeteriansim - Creative destruction, I get it. But the real valuable trait is ‘Not taking existing constructs more seriously than one should’. I’m not sure arriving at the right place for the wrong reasons is necessarily a good thing.

All together, this is a set of traits that probably results in a lot of disasters as well, I know people with similar traits in other fields and who are largely failures in most working environments, it just happens that they all tie together in a way that rewards them. . . when in reality the best ideas come from a completely different sort of person that we should be listening to.

Basically, they’re okay with breaking things along the way, they believe very firmly in a small number of things and won’t be swayed, and they’re convinced they’re right. Of course they are occasionally, a stopped clock is right twice a day too.

The ‘Blank Canvas Thinking’ trait is the only one I see as fundamentally valuable in multiple environments, and I’d rather see it in a different sort of person.


Seems like if you see a world full of failed attempts you have to believe you are different to even try.

At first I thought that it shouldn’t be considered a flaw if the person really is exceptional, but what he is saying is that the person may be exceptional in one area and that might lead to the error that they believe they are exceptional in other or all areas leading to bad judgment.

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Yeah, you nailed it.

I’m not trying to imply that this combination of traits might not occasionally have good ideas or come up with something new, but most of the ‘new’ ideas I hear about are ones that generally would have implemented years ago if we listened to and enabled more adaptable people, and the trait that helps get them there can screw them up when they finally hit something they’re not right the first time about.

The real power they have is in the fact that when they are right they’ve a cognitively disadvantageous trait that’s actually an advantage in a cognitively challenged environment.

And then we call them ‘Silicon Valley Successes’

It’s almost cruel to them!

These are really, really generic traits. Hard to get much out of that presentation.

I’m sure you have heard of the study that showed that even people given a big advantage and told they have been given a big advantage ( in an altered game of Monopoly ) will still come to believe their own exceptionalism is responsible for their success. We have a wild propensity to over-estimate our own effectiveness. Not a special talent of nerds.

He is really talking to people who see them selves as exceptional and he is saying OK it might be true, but here are some of the mistakes I have seen people who believe that make. It is not a list of desirable traits, but a warning that all tools can cut both ways.


Oh yes! I think there might have even been a TED talk! :smile:

I’m actually ALL for taking the people with these traits and training them better. We ALL should be trained better!

It’s just. . . I just see it as a little bit of a tragedy when certain types of ‘lazy’ thinking correlate with success in any way. It’s kind of a global tragedy.

It’s not THEIR fault that their flaws are being rewarded, after all.

These traits might not lead to success, but people who are successful are more likely to have these traits - at least that’s what I gather the presentation is asserting. Similar to the study that showed that CEOs were four times more likely to be psychopaths.


It reminded me of dreary office meetings and made me upset.

To me that suggested the odd lucky guess of infeasibly broad scope, plus confirmation bias.

This was my thought when I was reading it. I think when people see something like this, it tends to lead to a kind of feeling where if they have these traits, they’re going to be successful, which we know is not necessarily the case.

I think when you look at something like the ‘correct overgeneralization’ for example, people here are making the point that it leads quite often to not understanding the issue and making huge mistakes. But in some extremely small percentage of people, who have the intelligence, luck, insight, and who are in the right position, they’re going to be right enough times through some kind of amazing unknown process that they’ll be successful. Same thing with the rest - this is not about the people who believe they are exceptional because of being put in a monopoly game with more money, it is about the people who believe they are exceptional because they are.

Steve Jobs had all of these things, and he was eventually outrageously successful once he also learned the other skills to run a company properly. Most people who have these qualities, like anything else, are just going to be random jerks.

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  • Random unsuccessful jerks. And probably more unsuccessful than people without these traits.

I think a more interesting and useful study would look at a pool of people with these traits and try to identify the additional traits that lead some to wild success and others to dismal failure. Also, the quantity of participants alludes to the fact that there could also be some clear value hidden here. I wonder how many of these people have also learned how to temper their own opinions with those of others, to build organizations around themselves that accommodate their weaknesses, to moderate their own rash instincts with some self-awareness and identification of their shortcomings. I’d wager we’d find a lot of these traits in the sustainable success stories from this pool.

Yeah, absolutely. Certainly worse to work for/with.

Basically, if you display any of these, the best course of action by far is to try to work past them because for all intents and purposes, I can pretty much guarantee that you are not one of the people that it works for.

The problem arises because for whatever reason, sometimes boards of directors or venture capitalists look for these qualities because they know they can be staggeringly successful, but don’t concentrate enough on whatever the stuff that actually makes you successful is.

For every Jobs, or Bezos, or Musk, there are a thousand Apotheker level losers who will just bleed your company dry. You’re far better to look for someone who will be competent and boring.