Being successful often means asking the right questions. It doesn’t mean having the answers or even having answers at all.
Asking the right questions helps refine hypotheses, leads to new avenues of inquiry, and expands perspective. People have a tendency to get too caught up in having answers, and of course they believe their answers are correct. Human nature drives us to confirm our beliefs and makes us unconsciously avoid information that contradicts those beliefs. In my experience, it’s when I say, “I don’t know,” that I seem to learn the most.
If we all spent a greater proportion of our time studying the problem, conceptualizing the problem, investigating and questioning and manipulating the problem, then we’d be getting somewhere. As we acquire more answers, we stuff more knowledge into faulty, compartmentalized notions of understanding and we lead ourselves astray. If one takes a look at the financial crisis that began in 2008 and sent markets worldwide into varying states of recession, it is easy to see how, after the fact, systemic risk underpinned the unraveling of global markets and resulted in the expeditious retraction of credit.
Had risk analysts and economists and investment bankers and Wall Street quants been asking the right questions about risk, specifically system risk, the efficacy of financial models to disperse and innervate a society-wide confirmation bias on the trajectory of markets could have been attenuated. But even if the magnitude of the issue was known, with everyone making so much money I’m not sure if it would have made much of a difference.