left coughing in the exhaust

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Senior Member
This is from a book named Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time by J. Edward Russo, Paul J.H. Schoemaker.
I can't get this: How come a car and a delay? The car, as well as delay, is not mentioned in the preceding sentences.
Unfortunately, in a world characterized by rapid change and discontinuities, decision makers are dealing not so much with trends as with surprises. Numerical precision offers only a false sense of certainty. And even if real certainty were possible (and increasingly, it’s not), the cost of obtaining it has become unacceptably high. Delay long enough, and you’ll be left coughing in the exhaust of the car that just sped past.
  • idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The writer is using the image of a speeding car as a metaphor for the trends that race by us in the modern world. They go so fast that if decision makers don't react immediately, the trend will have gone past them (i.e., the trend will already have disappeared, making way for a new trend) just the way a speeding car can pass you and leave you coughing in its exhaust fumes.
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