February 2018
« Aug    

Strange Notions

Sometimes our faith in an idea is wierd
My grandmother was a cultivated woman of many opinions, most of them strongly held, and some of them distinctly unusual. For many years she insisted on watching TV in the dark while wearing sunglasses. She kept her TV in the dining room for almost as many years and so she would sit at the dining table wearing her Jackie O shades whenever she watched the tube. It looked quite odd.
Grandmother wasn’t the only one
Similarly odd notions also strike great captains of industry. The former CEO of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo, who you may remember as one of the nice people that brought us the subprime crisis, decided to base his firm’s business on the idea that it would be wise to match any mortgage made by anyone anywhere in the United States.
Likewise, they decided to offer any type of loan that consumers and securities market were willing to trade in. Say what you want about their business model, but complicated it was not. Their answer was always yes.
“Any friend of Tonto’s is a friend of mine” 
The rule may have worked for the Lone Ranger, but Tonto’s friends were a more selective sample of the US population that the sum total of people offered mortgages by US mortgage brokers. Offering to buy and sell anything that would fly on Wall Street also required unusual faith in the wisdom of Malcolm Gladwell’s masses.
The term ”business model” is specific and means no more or less than exactly that. It does not mean “sure thing”. It absolutely positively does not mean “guaranteed good idea”. A model is in essence just a concept, and like my dear grandmother’s notion of “safe television viewing”, some contain more wisdom than others.
All ideas are not equal 
My mother and I were pretty insistent about the madness of my grandmother’s practice, but she was impervious to reason. The advice of the nice man who had repaired her previous television weighed stronger than ours, despite my mother’s protestations that she had spent her entire career in the television business and never heard of such lunacy.
Somebody must have pointed out the folly of Countrywide’s practices to them, but to quote the article above, they insisted on following their model right off the cliff. It seems odd, but then so was my grandmother’s practice of wearing her sunglasses to watch TV in the dark.
We all have our idiosyncracies
Before we laugh too hard at Mr. Mozilo or my dear grandmother, we ought to ask ourselves what strange notions we cling to and what risks they entail. Unlike Mr. Mozilo, my grandmother eventually changed her mind. Her risks were also insignificant.
Are your strange notions on the order of Grandmother’s or Mr. Mozilo’s? Are you even aware of them?

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>