Survival bias

This image tracks the bullet/cannon shell holes on Allied planes that encountered German anti-aircraft fire and German fighters in World War II.

survival survivorship bias abraham wald

At first, the military wanted to reinforce those areas hit, because obviously that’s where the ground crew observed most damage on returning planes. This was until Hungarian born Abraham Wald pointed out that this was damage to the planes that had managed to get back to home.

Wald went on to say that the Allies should armour the areas where there are no dots at all, because those are the places where the planes won’t survive when hit.

This phenomenon is called survival/survivorship bias, a logical error where people focus on things that when you should really be looking at the those that didn’t.

This phenomenon, survivorship bias or survival bias, is the logical error of concentrating on the things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. It is a form of selection bias.

I am a partner at Succession Plus. We are specialists in providing proactive, focused and strategic advice for SME owners to help them manage strategic Business Succession and Exit Planning. I am enjoying a career that has embraced product and service businesses at all stages of their journey. I have worked in technology, telecoms, consumer electronics, payments, media, and publishing.

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