Felix Salmon

Sensible data

I have an essay in the January issue of Wired about the limits of quantification. In the magazine it’s headlined “Why Quants Don’t Know Everything”, but online it’s been retitled “Why the Nate Silvers of the World Don’t Know Everything” — which is a little unfortunate, since the whole essay is deeply indebted to Silver’s book, which makes substantially the same point.

The incredible shrinking company

Christopher Mims has a good piece on Meg Whitman’s Hewlett-Packard today, pointing out that the company’s success (at least as measured by its stock price) over the past year or so is in large part due to her cost-cutting abilities.

Why Mark Zuckerberg shouldn’t listen to management gurus

This is why Mark Zuckerberg was smart to stay in complete control of Facebook and not listen to anybody telling him that a multi-billion-dollar company needed a seasoned, professional CEO in charge.

How Rajat Gupta corrupted McKinsey

Just how corrupted was the culture of Rajat Gupta’s McKinsey? Suzanna Andrews reports:

Annals of C-suite dysfunction, Goldman Sachs edition

Ian McGugan has a good review of Bill Cohan’s huge new book on Goldman Sachs which includes an intriguing quote about how Bob Rubin “encouraged a culture of undisciplined risk taking” — something which goes directly against the reputation he’s spent many years cultivating. It comes from Chapter 15, which starts in the dangerous year of 1994 and which is full of juicy gossip about the very human frailties of the people running Goldman. Here’s more of it:

Youthful swearing, cont.

Remember the Global Business Oath of the Young Global Leaders at Davos? Let me remind you: it’s a terribly silly and earnest document which begins with “As a business leader I recognize that” and ends with “This pledge I make freely and upon my honor.” In between is a bunch of do-goody pablum. But thanks to Ben McGrath’s wonderful Talk piece in the latest New Yorker, I now know that the Global Business Oath has a rival: the MBA Oath. This one has a few small differences — it starts with “As a business leader I recognize my role in society” and ends with “This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.” But it also has a big difference: it’s a book, which can be bought at places like 800 CEO READ.com.

John Paulson’s high-risk hubris

Malcom Gladwell is no particular expert on financial markets. But he has said, according to Moe Tkacik, that of all the people he has interviewed, he most identifies with Nassim Nicholas Taleb — in a 7,800-word profile which explains just how hard it is to invest in markets when your strategy involves losing money every day and waiting for a tail event.

CEOs: Founders beat out managers

We’re less than two months from a New Year’s where a 9 ticks over into a 0, and so that means all manner of decade retrospectives. (And still we haven’t come up with a name for this decade!) Fortune is getting into the game early, naming Steve Jobs its CEO of the decade, for his work at Apple.

How the Sidekick fiasco is Microsoft’s fault

Is there an M&A lesson to be learned from the Microsoft/Danger/Sidekick fiasco? Here’s Dave Methvin: