I’ve been making this point to my dean (deaf-eared on this issue) for years: that if you choose speakers for your group because they are successful, you are avoiding huge slices of useful information.
Business Insider agrees:
… There's a very good statistical reason why you should probably take a healthy serving of salt with whatever you hear, and it's called survivor bias.
Survivor bias is a type of selection bias, where a study focuses on people that survived some process, overlooking those who didn't survive, which skews the results.
An example helps:
… Let's say you looked at 100 commencement speeches, 90% of which encouraged you to do as the speaker did and follow your dreams.
You might conclude then that following your dreams is a surefire way to succeed …
… You don't know several things, like the failure rate of all people who followed their dreams.
It's just worthwhile to remember that the skills that these people recommend aren't guarantees of success, and because being highly successful is by definition exceptional, they're probably the exception rather than the rule.
Read the whole thing, entitled “Why Graduates Should Totally Ignore Advice From Commencement Speakers".
Via Newmark’s Door.