Is Steve Jobs Dogmatic?: A New Meta-cognition Theory to becoming RICH

My travel journal to Silicon Valley

This new meta-cognition theory will make you rich!

Your competence rather than your attitude must be dogmatic!

 Recently, I stumbled upon some fascinating research. Two groups were asked to complete a simple test, they needed to memorize 25 words in 75 seconds, and their score was recorded as the number of correct answers.

 Group A was the top 0.1% of high achieving students, and group B was students with regular grades. Surprisingly, however, the result was almost the same between these two groups! Furthermore, researchers couldn’t find any significant difference between their IQ level, parents’ educational backgrounds and their parents’ economical state. The only difference group A had, was that they could evaluate their ability to predict the result by themselves. They recognized how many words they didn’t know, so they could precisely guess their score, unlike the students in group B. This research has been showcased on Korean TV program; EBS Docuprime <What is school> 8th “the secret of 0.1%”.

 The message we can infer from this research is, after all, that “meta-cognition” is important. Meta-cognition is defined as the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process, simply, ‘thinking about thinking’ and ‘knowing that I know’. Confusing? ‘Meta’ just means “beyond / transcending”. You may have heard this term here and there, but it is usually only used as a tool to achieve a higher score in middle school, rather than as an important approach to daily life.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

In the February of 2020, I had the opportunity to meet and converse with the people running businesses and working in Silicon Valley. One thing I discovered during this visit is that they are all obsessive practitioners of meta-cognition. What they are doing, however, is not the same meta-cognition the aforementioned ‘Group A’ students used. I would call this new type of meta-cognition: “Market-based Meta-cognition”. I want to introduce this particular type of meta-cognition, and why it is really needed in today’s society.

Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, explains three ‘heuristics’ and biases caused by each heuristic in his paper:Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases(1974). In short, heuristic is an instinctual method of judgement, in deciding how to deal with a situation when people can’t consider it fully because of the lack of time or information.

 The first heuristic is ‘representativeness’, which means ‘if A is similar to B, then we think it is likely that  A is caused by B.’ For example, let’s read the following description.

  “Steve is a meticulous guy who’s very introverted, always willing to help other people, (…)   caring about the order and system.”

When asked, “what kind of job do you think Steve has?”, most people would choose a librarian, rather than a farmer. The problem is, the number of farmers is 20 times larger than the number of librarians among the total population. Considering this fact, the people’s prediction should obviously be a farmer, when considering the law of probability. Meaning that this fact has a high impact on the probability guessing Steve’s job. (Steve Jobs)

 The second heuristic is ‘availability’, which means ‘if A is easily brought to mind, we think A has high probability.For instance, let’s think about which one is larger than the other:

  1. The words with K in the first letter (K___)
  2. The words with K in the third letter (__k_)

 Most people would choose the first one, because it’s easier to immediately think of many examples. But the answer is actually the latter.

(I’m going to skip the explanation of the third heuristic, because it’s irrelevant to this post, but I’ll add it briefly at the end of the post for anyone who is interested!)

 These two heuristics can frequently be found in the field of business and startup, particularly in terms of running a business. People unconsciously keep strengthening their biases about these heuristics, judging by their own experiences; these being failed cases surrounding them and news articles proclaiming the struggles of startups. This process of strengthening opinions is, in short, a hasty generalization, formed from a relatively small number of examples, in comparison to the total number of cases within society. This example can describe the first heuristic - ‘representativeness’; where people ignore objective proof and misunderstand that the small samples are an accurate representation of the entire group. (More precisely, this can be referred to as ‘conservation’ which has the same contextual meaning with ‘representativeness’ here). Moreover, this also shows the second heuristic ‘availability’; following the vague feelings from those failed cases, which are most easily brought to mind, rather than an objective analysis of the market.

 However, I found none of those heuristics or biases in Silicon Valley, the hub of technology and economic capital in the 21st century. There was only an attitude towards precise market analysis and clear business models instead. That’s why it’s not so strange to observe the following taking place: a highly paid team manager in Google transferring to a small startup, or developers in Facebook quitting their steady jobs to launch their own businesses. 
At the PLUG&PLAY pitching, where new startups present themselves to investors, I noticed the following:

·       A very detailed analysis of the market and customer’s needs
·       The exact point at which this business model is located within the market
·       A complete chart of competing companies and what their advantages over them are
·       Both a detailed revenue structure and predictions for the future of their model

 They seemed to ignore their groundless fears, and moved forth, hungrily consuming their needed information. Proving the saying: “fear comes from ignorance”.

Sung-Gun Lee, the creator of ‘Toss’, mobile financial service, said “listen to what the people want, don’t make what you want to make.” In fact, He failed many times before Toss. By observing people thoroughly and having many debates (he called it “ghost protocol”, I don’t know why), he grasped the needs of the market and started Toss, which became a unicorn startup.

 Stratio Inc. is a startup in Silicon Valley, who spread the infrared vision market from tech companies to regular customers. Jae-Hyong Lee, the CEO of Stratio, was a top paid worker, who graduated from Seoul University and went on to complete his Masters and Ph.D at Stanford before starting Stratio 8 years ago. The decision he made was based on his clear meta-cognition of knowing the market and his own competence
One of Steve Jobs’ popular quotes is about believing in what you're doing so much that others' opinions are irrelevant. Because of this expression, people talk about how ‘dogmatic’ Steve jobs is. Jae-Hyong said, however, the emphasis of that saying is not on “irrelevant” but on ‘the outstanding competence which can make others’ opinions irrelevant.’

“Your competence rather than your attitude must be dogmatic.”

 Lee precisely recognized his ability and value in the market, and that’s why he succeeded to receive a million dollars’ investment and was able to create an even larger future value.

 In conclusion, the regular definition of meta-cognition cannot be the definite standard in this era of change. What we need now, above the ‘self-based meta-cognition’, is ‘market-based meta-cognition’ which is recognizing precisely and clearly about the market and our values in the market. Although the ‘Group A’ students achieved top 0.1% grade by using their ‘self-based meta-cognition’, we could go one step further and create value and wealth by using our ‘market-based meta-cognition’.

Thank you for reading,
Here is the third heuristic for anyone who is interested:

‘Adjustment and anchoring’, meaning ‘we are affected by the default value’. For example, if starting negotiations with a high price, that price will be an anchor, resulting in a tendency of the final price being higher than cases starting with a low price.

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  1. Thanks to your post, we learn what "market-based meta cognition" is. And now it's time to be wealthy :)

    1. Thank you very much! I'm glad that you liked my idea. Let's be rich!