Life Has Huge Amplification Effects

December 27, 2012 8:55 am

This thought is borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’. We wrote recently about how the best product does not always win, but the winning product becomes the best product due to the benefits gained from being the winning product.

So the bigger point there is this: Life has huge amplification effects. For example, skill differences between two people, as life progresses, gets amplified so much (partly due to the benefits provided by the system to the guy with better skills), that in a very short time, the two are no longer even comparable on the same scale.

As an example, consider two candidates A and B, applying for a programming job at Google. Say, A is slightly better than B when they appear for the interview, and A gets in and B does not, since it is 2008 and Google wants to play it safe.
Candidate B then goes on to become a software development engineer at some other company (it is 2008, so Facebook and Microsoft are not hiring as well).

Fast forward 5 years, and you can understand what we mean by “amplification effects” – the opportunities provided to candidate A at Google would make him magnitudes better than candidate B in five years. VCs would be chasing candidate A to take their money, whereas candidate B would still probably be waiting for a call from Google. The one point we need to understand is the magnitude of the amplification. It is huge – people move to different ‘leagues’ as a result of such effects.

The funny thing is, this amplification effects apply to everything in life. And our systems introduce so much bias in opportunities (Outliers has this example of a soccer team full of people born in January, February or March since the selection was just based on Age) that life just becomes a demonstration of such amplification effects and nothing more.

Sad, but definitely true. Look around. Everything you see is a result of such amplification.

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2 Comments for “Life Has Huge Amplification Effects”

  1. Skewlawn

    Seems like a poor example. Lets try it this way: rather than take a mundane programming job in the bowels of the gigantic behemoth corporation that is google, your hypothetical candidate B launches a startup or works someplace where he/she can have an impact.

    Lies, damned lies and statistics eh?

  2. junior

    Thanks for the comment, I agree, silicon valley is a place of possibilities so not the best example we could have picked

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