Doing bold things, part deux.

More from Gonzales: Heraclitus said that every time you step into a river, it’s a different river. Every time you walk a [mountain] it’s a different mountain. It’s a boundary condition, a phase transition zone. Because of that it can make a mockery of the most thoughtful plan. Experience is nothing more than an engine that drives adaptation, so it’s always important to ask: Adaptation to what? When the environment changes (a given) you have to be aware that your experience might be inappropriate.

People are always part of the system. And people love forward motion. It’s very hard to get them to disengage once a course has been set. Add to this that people “normalize” risk. If something feels less risky they’ll take more chances; more risky and they’ll take less. “We’ve been through a similar situation and emerged just fine.” It’s easiest to assume it was your skill and savvy, your adaptations that saw you through. That’s why accident preventative engineering always fails. Add anti-lock brakes to a car and people push the limits of their driving skills. They feel safer, so they increase the risk until it matches their risk comfort zone. And of course, they get into more accidents since they no longer understand the level of energy in the system, and worse, feel protected from it.

Apply this to business. A project owner will increase risk until the level matches their risk comfort zone. If they fail to understand the amount of energy in the system, if this project represents a “different project” than the one they managed the last time, their adaptations (business experiences) no longer match… and the project is at risk from the outset. One disturbance will eventually lead to a failure cascade. As they say in mountaineering “A rope without fixed protection is a suicide pact.” A project that is not self-aware, that does not introspect, that does not provide a voice to all the participants is a suicide pact.

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