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19 February 2013

Evaluate Ideas without Fear and without Excessive Optimism

Estimated reading time Time 2 to read

What we consider to be our views is in fact the result of years of paying attention to information that confirms our beliefs and ignoring the information that challenges our preconceived notions. We are, some more than others, the result of an education and learning based on yes/no choices and for this reason, we tend to fall into some traps in decision-making when risks and rewards are involved. Our brain misleads us about what it guards. It feels attracted to long term objectives when these bring about large rewards.

BBVA-OpenMind-Jose Antonio Baldaia-Evaluate ideas without fear and without excessive optimism

Whoever makes decisions in organizations must be aware of the importance of psychological traps especially when we evaluate new ideas or the opportunities to implement them. Fear and pessimism are two strong allies, but we also know that excessive optimism leads to hastening, something which often comes at a high cost.

Although we live in an age in which happiness is the most desired attainment, and nobody admires people who are afraid, it is not easy to keep an open mind to the possibility of the element of risk inherent in the adoption of new ideas. While it is easy to ridicule anyone who signals the dangers ahead and see them as pessimists, on the other hand, to imagine a future without obstacles or adversity is excessively and dangerously optimistic. It is the balance between the fear of change and the courage to take risks that creates the most suitable environment for good ideas to develop. To achieve this balance, we must, however, look into ourselves, challenge our assumptions, reframeour problems, imagine the opposite of what we find acceptable and convince other people, not just ourselves. Over the centuries people have developed the biological capacity of fear because it has helped them to survive, but at the same time this makes them resilient to change and alert to the many dangers that they might confront. While this ability to be alert is without a doubt positive, it often stops us from taking bigger steps.

In these times, when we embark ourselves to a future that we hope will be promising, many of us underestimate the difficulties we will face and overestimate our ability to respond to those difficulties.

 ”While being optimistic is generally believed to be a benefit for living a high quality and perhaps longer life, too much optimism can be a problem, especially regarding financial matters.”  Rick Nauert Phd

It is important that all stakeholders in innovation within organizations be alert to the possibility that they might be subject to these deviations. They must rely on the risks and the obstacles they will face to lead a project. Most of the time, the victories of optimism result in a speculative bubble and the victories of pessimism result in losing great opportunities.

We must remember that it is in the balance between the various forces where the path to success can be found! Not confusing impulsivity with intuition is an inherent quality of conquerors and winners. Intuition is nothing more than a response as a result of experience and where the “why” of our decisions is not easy to explain. Impulsiveness is an absolute necessity to get immediate answers and it needs to be managed with critical thinking.

José Baldaia

Management and Innovation Consultant (Portugal)

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