we admire bravery – but not at work

one of our Participation Behaviours from Ergo Consulting days

one of our Participation Behaviours from Ergo Consulting days

Last week at the end of a meeting I was chatting with someone about bravery. He was reflecting his frustration at having explained to a group of business leaders how acts of bravery inevitably lead to failure. The response he got was an explanation of the sophisticated risk mitigation approach the company uses. – completely missing the point. If we are brave, we will fail.

We’ve all seen it. Good practice project management always includes a risk register. But in the kind of projects I am involved with, most of the risks are managed intuitively by good practitioners anyway, so the technical security blanket does little more than add to the administrative drag on the project.

We are caught in a paradox. On the one hand, pretty much every company I work with needs innovative ways to do its business. And yet on the other, our corporate training suppresses the bravery necessary to carve out new paths. We can’t keep doing the same old things. But we can’t afford to fail trying new things.

Yesterday I drove a Patrol full of smiling faces along deserted beaches along part of the north east coast of Tassie. After we’d stopped for lunch and a swim, we had to choose whether to retrace our path back along the beach, or keep going then traverse some sand dunes back towards civilization. I’m not so experienced off road, so would have been happy swaying back through the wet and dry stretches we’d successfully negotiated in the morning. Thanks to my more adventurous brother-in-law we kept going – and got ourselves stuck half way up a soft sand hill. Oh crap. Luckily for us, a helping tow and some tips from a hardcore local had us moving again.

Last week, in the middle of a long running work project, we were stuck in a different way. Something we had worked towards for 18 months was under significant threat … lots of money and people’s jobs at stake. We’ve decided to take a risk on the way forward … no certain success but nothing ventured nothing gained.

My dad is not so mobile these days … but he is scheming to buy a little caravan to do some adventuring. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to manage, but he reckons he wants to give it a go.

We can’t have it both ways. There is no love without vulnerability. There is no carving out new directions without bravery. And just as in love, we let each other down; in life, if we choose not to play it safe, we will fail.

We admire bravery, just not at work. But we can’t have it both ways.