Gapingvoid Tapdance


Raindancing cuts across all of the themes that I explore here.

  • Leadership and Management – Organisations attempt to ‘upside’ (dance) their way out of their ‘downside’ problems. If we just get enough rain, we don’t have to worry about water management. The business cliché is that ‘revenue solves all problems’. Revenue might cover up most problems…for a while.
  • Embracing Failure – Raindances are predicated on the hubris built from too much success and not enough failure.
  • Black Box Complexity – Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness is a treatise on the dynamic of the Amazonian Raindancer. The problem with people figuring out ‘rain works’ is that with macro dynamics, you can’t have a control group. The problem gets compounded when everything is going in one direction. When a rising tide floats all boats, it’s hard to calculate the impact that you have had in raising your own boat.

Taleb’s seminal work ‘Fooled By Randomness’ focused on the raindancing endemic in his world of investing (where successes are actually dubbed ‘rainmakers’). Here some of my favourite rain dances in other corners of industry…

  1. New Corporate HQs – Nothing says ‘feathers and tom toms’ better than shiny new showcase headquarters. Especially those crafted with lots of top floor corner offices. Master practitioners – IT companies fighting an inferiority complex born of their garage start-up roots and fuelled by over eager venture capital.
  2. Vanity Sponsorships – Where the box seats and meeting the stars is more important than the marketing impact. Master practitioners – Big B2B companies.
  3. McKinsey change management – Hiring McKinsey is like a declaration to the world ‘I have no idea what is going on in my business and what to do about its problems.’ Master practitioners – Multi-business division multi-nationals. Senior execs bucking for a promotion.
  4. Re-branding – A sci-fi new name with cliché phonemes, an unintelligible CG logo, and a whole new pantone pallette for the Marcoms crowd. Voila, new clothes for old dancers. Master practitioners – Old companies trying crack new markets.
  5. Complex spreadsheet models. The more complex and opaque the better. Macros are like head-dress feathers. Master practitioners – Investment banks, Hedge funds.