Certainty or Opportunity

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“Certainty is an illusion.  Perfect safety is a mirage.  Zero is always unattainable, except in the case of absolute zero where, as you remember, all motion and life itself stop.” 

–  Mitch Daniels (b. 1949), former governor of Indiana, now President of Purdue University, in a commencement speech to The Class of 2021

There are always risks.  Business is about managing them and understanding trade-offs between action, inaction, half-action, and wrong action.

Therein lies one of the fundamental flaws in using data to drive every decision.  Data is great at telling us what has happened, and it’s pretty good at telling us what could — might — happen next.  Could is not the same thing as will.  Might is not the same thing as must.  There are always risks.

Part of the key to success in leadership is understanding the risks.  An even bigger part of success in leadership is deciding how much risk, and what type, we will tolerate.  Reputational risk?  Revenue risk?  Market risk?  Liability?  Exchange rate?  Interest rate?

And, like most business decisions, these are not moment-in-time decisions.  Risks evolve.  Opportunities arise that should be measured against evolving risks.

If we seek certainty, we almost surely will fail, if for no other reason than we’re hoping perfection will be the measure of success.  If we seek opportunity and understand the trade-offs and risks that come with pursuing it, we almost surely will make a difference.

 

 


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