Upside Downside

I recently horned in chimed in on a conversation where an activity was being discussed in terms of “should we?” or “shouldn’t we?”  The potential action being debated could very well lead to some incredibly positive outcomes in this particular organization.  It also has the potential of causing a few minor operational hiccups along the way.  Not catastrophic operational earthquakes, but rather small tremors after which the earth’s crust would settle right back down.  Truly.

Major upside – minimal downside.

Yet, apparently, the discussions around “should we?” or “shouldn’t we?” led folks to decide “let’s just not do anything at all.”

A common occurrence.  It’s much easier for humans to find ways to justify their already-held belief so they can say “let’s NOT do this” rather than fully exploring how they can instead adopt the mantra “let’s identify how we CAN do this.”  Confirmation bias. I admit to occasionally running headlong into its shiny seductive grasp.

It’s easy, when viewed rationally, to see the downside to thinking this way.  People who seek to confirm their beliefs, focus on one solution and ignore other options may end up staying-in-the-same-place.  Or making poor decisions. Or not taking action when action is called for.

So, I often wonder, is there ever an upside?


  1. This is the common risk vs. reward theory. In many cases ANY risk, any risk at all can sometimes be a detriment towards moving forward with any idea.

    I find that entrepreneurs though, (or those with entrepreneurial spirit) tend to think differently. “How CAN we do it..” instead of focusing on the obstacles. imo.

    Great post, Robin. 🙂

  2. broc.edwards says:

    I’ve found that cultures heavy on the bureaucracy often punish being wrong more than they reward being right. The end result is that no one takes risk, makes changes, or moves beyond the well established status quo. (As the old trader’s saying goes, “You’ll never get fired for buying IBM.”)

    The flipside, as Christine mentioned, is the nimble, entrepreneurial culture that rewards attempt more than it punishes being wrong.

    Is there ever an upside? Yes, but the upside for the org is often different than the upside for the individual. The individual will choose the upside/downside we are rewarding them for regardless of whether it is in the org’s long-term interest.

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