What Google’s Mistake Can Teach Us About Trading

The other day Google discovered that it was wrong. Yes the brainy we-are-smarter-than-all-of-you-combined Google, the we-will-be-the-first-trillion-dollar-company Google was wrong.

For the longest time Google assumed that the only the smartest, best pedigreed talent was worthy of hire. Even if you were 40. Google would ask you for your GPA and your SAT scores since they thought these would be quantifiable measures of your potential success.


Fortunately for Google, the company records everything and much to their credit they went back to analyse their employee interview records and manager evaluation forms and here is what they discovered. It did not matter whether you graduated summa cum laude from Stanford or MIT. What mattered, what made the best managers was just one quality -- consistency.

You see it doesn’t matter if you are brilliant, but a mercurial grump. Other people cannot function well in an environment where you are running hot or cold every 5 minutes micromanaging every decision. To achieve long term success in an organization employees need a consistent environment with clear goals and tasks in order to perform well.

After looking at this analysis, Google changed its hiring structure and stopped looking only for geniuses and started to hire managers with strong interpersonal skills and a disciplined mindset.

So what does this mean to us as traders? Quite a lot actually. When talking about markets it is laughable to entertain the notion of consistency. After all markets are the very definition of mercurial. If they weren’t there would be no risk to trading and also no reward.

Yet while markets can wild and volatile, our reaction to them must be as consistent as possible. I am sure that when you think about your trading mistakes most of them come not from the flaw of your setup but from the fact that you DEVIATE from your own rules all the time. You take trades that are impulsive, you change the stops and limits on your original positions, you decide that the EXACT OPPOSITE of your setup is what you should really trade. Certainly I do all those things and the results inevitable erode performance.

That is actually the very nature of the markets. They are meant to destabilize you not just financially but psychologically as well. Last night my son and I were arguing about some obscure fact regarding President Obama. He was certain he was right and wanted to bet money. I was only mildly confident in my position, but since I am the money and thus the market I said to him, “OK, If you are right, I will pay you double your weekly allowance, if wrong you get no money this week.” Even though he had better information than me he backed off the bet. At which point, I told him that he learned his first lesson in trading.

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So that is the Google lesson for us all. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how well tested you ideas. It doesn’t matter how statistically robust your setup is. If you cannot maintain consistency of performance in the face of constant market mind games, you cannot succeed.

Boris Schlossberg

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