Listening to the radio the other day, I was quite intrigued to hear a recent scientific study has proved that risk-taking laboratory rats actually live longer than their less adventurous contemporaries.
Well, this fascinating insight into the rodent world set me wondering whether the same principles apply to human beings and, if so, whether we risk-averse IT workers and managers are unwittingly foreshortening our own life expectancy.
After all, our working lives are predicated entirely on avoiding risk at all costs and always being completely in control of the situation at all times. That’s what’s expected of us, isn’t it?
I can’t think of any business which actively encourages their IT managers and directors deliberately to pursue risky strategies and policies - although I must admit there are many who have inadvertently done so - and then paid the professional consequences when the risk didn’t pay off.
So, despite the possible personal health benefits of a bold swashbuckling approach to life, we must stay within the bounds of corporate compliance and meekness if we want to keep our jobs.
Fair enough, self-preservation is one of the strongest behavioural drivers known to mankind and will always govern our actions, especially when we are persistently conditioned to seek the path of least risk and least resistance to change. And, consequently, many of us do tend to over-compensate by building inordinate contingency into our project plans and business change programmes.
Usually it is not just a question of a “belt and braces” approach to risk mitigation – we go well beyond that. Too often then we end up with a “belt, braces, safety net, rubber walls and ceiling” approach, even for fairly straightforward, relatively minor changes. And all of this “redundant” contingency has a cost, in terms of effort, time and money.
Sometimes I think that we would be much better off if we took a slightly more risk-friendly outlook and didn’t always look for the worst- case scenario, regardless of the genuine scale of risk.
Perhaps it is time to adopt a new business motto, albeit borrowed from the Special Air Service and Del Boy Trotter: “who dares, wins” is not necessarily a recipe for recklessness, it could be a way of extending our IT budgets – and our own lives…
Either way, at the very least it should guarantee us the prospect of a longer retirement.
What do you think?
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Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org