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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

How to Increase the Probability of Your Success

My next article in the series on success

You can mathematically increase the likelihood of your success when you are not obsessed with specific goals or approaches to achieving those goals.

Let me illustrate this with the famous “birthday game.”  Here’s the extremely short version…

If you have a room of people…

  • for there to be a 50% chance that two people have the same birthday – any birthday, you need only 23 people in the room (matching day and month)
  • for there to be a 50% chance that two people have a specific (e.g., April 25) birthday, you need over 600 people in the room

These probabilities show that the likelihood of ANY event happening is quite high (e.g., any birthday), while the likelihood of a PARTICULAR event (e.g, a specific birthday) happening is quite low.  This gives us insight into how to improve our odds of success.

If you are wed to things working out in a particular way, it requires a large number of events coming together in a specific way—just like looking for a particular birthday. Keeping an open mind and “increasing your peripheral vision” will improve your chances.  What particular outcomes are you seeking that may be probabilistically limiting? Do you have a particular view of how your business should look? Do you believe that a particular business partner is the key to your success? Are there specific clients that you feel you must land? Are there particular milestones you must hit? Are there technologies you must develop?

The more specific you are, mathematically speaking, the less likely you are to find hidden opportunities that may look different than your expectations.

If you want more details on the birthday mathematics or on how to better leverage the concept, read my American Express article on the topic.