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On Twitter lately we’ve seen all kinds of fascinating articles fly by talking about skill versus luck.
This first one from Columbia professor Michael Mauboussin made us very glad that we took that stats class in our MBA program; wouldn’t have a chance in figuring out what he was talking about otherwise. He’s saying that luck plays more of a role when skill increases to the highest levels. The example of baseball really works for us. Fascinating!!
We’ve captured Mauboussin’s article here in PDF form.
This small blurb from a Boston newspaper backs this up:
Poker: it’s skill, baby
The illegality of gambling has been justified by the assumption that luck, not skill, determines the outcome. Yet, a new study from the University of Chicago (including “Freakonomics” author Steven Levitt) finds that poker is not just a game of luck — that it depends as much on skill as baseball or financial management. The authors compared the winnings of top-ranked players to the winnings of everyone else in the 2010 World Series of Poker. On average, the top players earned a 30 percent return on their investment, while everyone else incurred a 15 percent loss.
Levitt, S. & Miles, T., “The Role of Skill versus Luck in Poker: Evidence from the World Series of Poker,” National Bureau of Economic Research (May 2011).
So the first is talking about absolutes: Once you’re at the head of the class, competing against the other best-of-breeds in your area, it’s more about luck. Since your skills are about equal, is the premise, once you’re at that level (right?).
But when looking across the entirety of the class, your skills matter more. The best competitors will take home all of the pie.
Taking these two together, we conclude that being highly skilled is preferable.
None of this is all that relevant in the bschool application discussion… except this: HOW SKILLED ARE YOU AT WRITING ADMISSIONS ESSAYS?
If you’re not an expert at it, you might strongly consider getting some help in the process. There are thousands and thousands of applicants every year who aren’t even seriously considered by the adcoms, because they submit applications that are just bottom-of-the-barrel. The adcom doesn’t waste their time.
It’s very important that you not be in that category. You want to be competing against the others who have their game on. Then, you’ll be able to bank on both skill AND luck in your application to a top bschool.
You will not want to rely on luck alone in such an important endeavor.