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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 March 2010
The gist of the book is about how luck plays a large and complex role in life - the authors cover our levels of wealth, health, happiness and, somewhat oddly, management/business. The main problem seems to be the illusion of control that we perceive and even desire - it seems that the more we believe we are in control, the less successful we will be in that particular field.

The three authors are established professors in academia, who have clearly done their research on many medical articles and business books, some of the huge numbers of books on Happiness, plus leading edge books such as "Black Swan", "Fooled by Randomness", "Predictably Irrational", "Irrational Exuberance", "Blink", "The Wisdom of Crowds", "Seduced by Success", "The Luck Factor", "Creativity", "How Doctors Think" - all of which are referred to.

They take pot shots at some of the many management books that have been proved wrong by time, such as "In Search of Excellence", "Built to Last", and "Good to Great" as well as the "One Minute" series of books. I'm not sure why they left out the excellent management books like "Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense" by J Pfeffer and "The Halo Effect" by Phil Rosenzweig.

4 stars, not 5, because there is little of originality here. Their only original contribution is making the distinction that there are two types of uncertainty: totally unexpected events like those referred to in "Black Swan" versus regular uncertainties, for example the many affecting your daily commute. The book is a skillful team achievement, engagingly offering advice synthesised from many excellent books, some of which have become classics already, which you now won't need to read because their most pertinent points are well summarised here. Even if you have read them, it serves as an excellent review.

All in all, an entertaining but also useful book filled with suggestions, insights, wisdom, and knowledge on the major part that chance plays and to help us navigate our way through the randomness that is life.
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on 8 May 2009
I really wanted to like this book, but the truth is, I felt like I read most of these ideas before somewhere else. I'm still trying to figure out what started this but there have been a proliferation of books that philosophise, within the same tome, on a combination of finance, the markets, probability, chance, risk, decision making to name a few. Like Venn diagrams. If you've read the Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Blink then you would have come across many of the ideas presented in this book. In fact, Dance with Chance does reference some of these.

Don't get me wrong, this is a very well written piece with lots of good arguments to back up the authors' ideas. All I'm saying is if you've been reading some of the other titles I mentioned above then this book may not have such a big impact on you. To me it signified that it might be time to for me to start reading something completely different.

Were this my first book on the genre(s) it would've gotten a 4, possibly a 5, but based on my comments above I'll have to go with 3 stars.
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on 13 June 2009
Although (like Vazza) I had read about many of the concepts previously, I think this book would work well as an introduction for those who haven't. It's very well written and has a consistent clarity that is surprising given the range of topics.

The book systematically and entertainingly destroys the notion of the 'Illusion of Control' whilst dispensing practical advice.

For example, chapters 2 & 3 on medicine suggest not undertaking unnecessary check-ups because of the likelihood of false positives (the explanation of the latter being the simplest I've read). Bad Science would be a great follow-up read to these chapters.

Chapters 4 & 5 discuss finance although I probably found this a little too simple. Furthermore, I thought the treatment of the Efficient Market Hypothesis (chapter 8) is better covered in John Kay's 'The Long and Short of It', where he states it is "Illuminating, but not true". Fans of Buffett will, at the minimum, agree with the latter.

Chapters 6 & 7 show why you shouldn't listen to the latest management guru and explains the incorrect sampling decisions (no sampling of companies that fail, no effort to falsify their theories, etc.). Having sat through many ridiculous case studies during an MBA this is welcome relief!

The remaining chapters discuss the proper outlook to take. This can be summarised as: Accept that you are living in an uncertain world, Access the level of uncertainty, and, Augment the range of uncertainty just estimated. 'Give up control to gain more control' may be a strange mantra to many, but the examples show why this should be the case.
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According to a Hebrew aphorism, "Man plans and then God laughs." That sums up my own attitude toward "luck." I prefer good luck to bad luck but can seldom (if ever) predict -- much less control - either. Many people claim, "the harder I work, the luckier I am" but is it really luck? Are there not people who succeed without much (if any) effort and others who fail despite maximum effort? In a word, yes. Spyros Makridakis, Robin Hogarth, and Anil Gaba explain that "to dance with chance is to accept the role and importance of chance and to take advantage of the opportunities it creates while avoiding its negative up illusory control actually increases control [i.e. `the paradox of control'] and results in substantial benefits [whereas] the illusion of control pervades almost all aspects of our lives and can have serious negative implications for our well-being." So, the book's purpose is to help its readers to avoid costly mistakes and to help them "exploit the role of luck in the most important aspects of [their lives]"and to "seek both beauty and opportunity and take some life-enhancing steps of [their] own."

All well and good but how? Makridakis, Hogarth, and Gaba recommend what they call a "Triple A Approach": Accept the fact that the world is uncertain and therefore the future cannot be predicted, although possibilities can be identified; assess the nature of the uncertainty by using all of the information available to identify and (if possible) to measure the degree of probability of each of the aforementioned "possibilities"; and then augment the assessment to include contingencies not previously considered plausible. If I fully understand this approach (and I may not), its primary purpose is to help all illusions of control by revealing the role that chance (or "luck") plays as we proceed each day into an uncertain future. In this context, I am reminded of Lily Tomlin's observation that reality "is a collective hunch."

On Page 256, the authors provide a list of the principles behind all the stories they share in the first part of the book and then assert that, when it comes to making decisions, the importance of taking uncertainty into full account is paramount. The "Triple A Approach" offers one strategy. Another "is to support intuitive hunches (or `blinking') by thinking wherever possible - remember the chess grand masters and their years of painstaking practice. As for the remarkable properties of simple modeling (or `sminking'), decision-makers tend to under-exploit them, while relying excessively on the opinions of experts who are immune to the consequences of their expertise."

This is by no means an "easy read" but it generously rewards those who read it with appropriate care. (I felt obliged to re-read portions of several chapters and expect others to do the same.) Of greatest interest and value to me is how effectively Makridakis, Hogarth, and Gaba challenge, indeed repudiate a number of well-entrenched assumptions about chance (or "luck"), business forecasting, contingency planning, "creative destruction," superstition, and the subject of Chapter 12, "the inevitability of decisions." As I finished reading this book, I recalled a prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, one with which I conclude this review:

"God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."
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on 31 May 2013
This book is amazing. Written in simple language and with scientific back up . It's out of the box thinking. Made me be comfortable with doing things which unpopular, unconventional and uncomfortable yet rational. A great piece of intellectual work!
Dr Rish Sharma
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on 12 December 2010
Outstanding. Much better than more familiar titles (principally "Fooled By Randomness"). Clearer, more insightful, better real world examples, infinitely better written, and informative rather than being patronizing and pompous.

A must-read.
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on 11 September 2009
You will enjoy this book. It's well written and very informative. At this price it is a must buy.
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