Our society often associates success with quality. In a fiercely competitive market, the thinking goes, only the best products rise to the surface. Once a product is a hit, whether a blockbuster movie or a bestselling book, we readily point to the attributes that make it so appealing. And the stakes are high: studies show a small minority of winners reap the vast majority of the sales.
The link between success and quality is clear and legitimate in many domains. For example, consistent tournament winners in tennis or golf must have the skill to beat a large field of hungry challengers. But what happens if factors other than quality shape success? Might we draw the wrong lessons from the successes and failures we see and make ill-informed decisions as a result?