Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

Rex, Brian and The Importance of Culture

I seem to have a lot of serendipity around the messages that keep popping up in my life of late. The most recent theme is around the culture of risk-aversion. With football season ramping up towards the playoffs, I've been keeping up on the sports blogs of late. Tonight, I read this brilliant article which has implications on all sorts of business decisions. From the article:

"I guess my point, if I have one, is that appearances can be deceiving, and players with risk-taking styles appear worse when they fail. For the low-risk guy [Brian Greise], failure is usually a gradual series of non-successes--individually harmless but collectively, a slow drain on the team's good fortune. The [Rex] Grossman-type failures are pronounced, ugly, immediate, and occasionally catastrophic."

This is very similar to a conversation I was having with a co-worker recently - we were talking about the absolutely risk-averse nature of our corporate culture. And we both realize that the culture is far more Brian Greise than it is Rex Grossman - rather than make an attempt that has significant potential for large success but some potential for failure, we'll take the short, tiny gain that has no potential for failure at all.

The problem with this theory is that, as my co-worker pointed out, "when someone else is gaining more ground than you, you're actually losing". We're falling further and further behind - but not behind everyone else. We're actually losing significant ground to where we could be. We're leaving profits on the table, so to speak.

Which is fine, as long as we're doing well. But, coming from a company that couldn't afford to leave profits on the table, I realize how things can turn badly in a hurry: how much risk does it present to risk not gaining what you can in a good market when a down cycle could cause you to be losing more significantly later?

This has implications in security, of course... I wonder what Alex would say about this and how it fits into their model.

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray