Malcolm Gladwell on the financial crisis

Yet another excellent speech from Malcolm Gladwell given at High Point University, see This time on

  1. Financial crisis of 2007–08
  2. Battle of Chancellorsville between General Lee and Joe Hooker during the American Civil War in 1863
  3. Overconfidence and miscalibration, results from Stuart Oskamp (Overconfidence in Case-Study Judgments)

His speech keeps the listener in suspense the whole time. He starts with the financial crisis, then he stashes this theme for a moment to start a story on the American Civil war, its protagonists, its setting, stash this once again, then talk on miscalibration. Now with this topic explained, he gets back to the civil war, and then to the financial crisis.

Here are some of the other characters, events, and phenomena he references:

  1. Military intelligence
  2. James Cayne, last CEO of Bear Stearns
  3. William D. Cohan‘s interview with Cayne

Some noteworthy quotes:

Miscalibration refers to the difference between how good you really are, and how good you think you are. (…) Miscalibration is how experts screw-up. (…) Incompetence are mistakes made by people who don’t know enough, but overconfidence are mistakes made by people who know a lot.

And one quote which can easily be remembered:

Incompetence is the disease of idiots, overconfidence is the disease of experts. (…) Incompetence annoys me, overconfidence terrifies me.

See also Malcolm Gladwell: Don’t go to Harvard, go to the Lousy Schools!, and Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of stubbornness.


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