We Succeed by Anticipating the Future — Just Enough

A Book Review

I was reminded of Holmes’s observation as I began to read this book in which the authors, Vivek Ranadivé and Kevin Maney, explain how and why we can achieve success by anticipating the future “just enough.”

The premise of The Two-Second Advantage is that too much data is overwhelming computing’s capabilities, but an alternative is emerging: event-driven systems that form models by analyzing massive amounts of data but don’t rely on accessing that data all the time.

Borrowing from the way the human brain works, these systems are predictive — they take in real-time events, predict what’s about to happen, and take action or send a notification without human intervention.

They operate on the idea that a little bit of the right information ahead of time is more valuable than piles of information too late.

The U.S. Airways pilot, Chesley (“Sully”) Sullenberger III, who successfully ditched US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, New York City, in January 2009, offers an excellent case in point. Once aware of the circumstances, he made the correct decision with little (if any) consideration of options and with precious little time.

The same is true of countless other airline pilots as well as diagnostic surgeons (especially in hospital emergency rooms) and military leaders in combat who quite literally must make life-and-death decisions.

The authors describe it, “judgments made in two seconds are often more accurate than those made after months of analysis.”

For decades, we have known — as revealed by a wealth of research in psychology and behavioral economics on the adaptive unconscious — that mental processes can work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information.

Those who wish to develop a more predictive brain, one that can quickly process huge chunks of information, and then act upon that information, must be willing to commit the time and the attention required.

That’s what Sullenberger demonstrated when deciding to land the plane on the river.

Wayne Gretzky always claimed that his advantage was knowing where the puck would go.

Larry Bird describes his advantage differently but makes the same point: “When I’m playing basketball, everybody else seems to be moving in slow motion.”

It probably took all three about 10,000 hours of highly disciplined, iterative practice under strict, expert supervision to develop that capability…plus some luck such as being in the right place at the right time, with the right support, while developing various skills under the right conditions.

A brief commentary such as this can hardly do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and wisdom that the authors provide.

I also commend them on the style with which they present their story. This was a very easy and entertaining read on what I believe is a very important discussion topic on business decision making.

I highly recommend the book.

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