Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Optimism - Really?

My last posting on the subject of optimism seemed to generate some interest. I was surprised to find that two potential clients had read it, and felt the need to comment on it. I've also had a couple of emails to go along with the comments on the blog. One of the comments seemed to sum up the general response:
if nobody reads this thing, why bother posting it anyway?
In one sentence the author, about whom I was unable to find any information, managed to convey a lot. He - and I will assume it is a male reader for absolutely no good reason - immediately supposes that no-one reads this blog. What a pessimistic view - but one that I would categorise as typically British (or more typically English). We live in a culture that does not embrace optimism - rather living in a cynical and unemotional world. Fortunately I am blessed with some readers - but, of course, the author himself presumably read the blog before commenting.

He finishes with a "why bother". Well even if I had no readers at all, part of the reason for writing this blog is self-satisfaction - I do it partly for the simple joy of doing it. And why not?

My comment author was not alone, however, in questioning the place of optimism in business. "Business is  a serious endeavour...", I was told on one occasion (by someone working in a not-for-profit organisation too), and he went on to suggest that there was no place for, or need for, optimism in a "grown-up" business.

I disagree. Strongly. All too often, the optimistic response is not considered by mature businesses. I recently set up a "Disaster Response Training Session" for a client. We talked through a scenario of a fire on the floor above my client's offices. The attendees were great  - but did not consider the most optimistic outcome. Happy to consider the total loss of their offices and all their data, they did not, before I prompted them, consider the outcome that had the fire protection working, the data security working and their people doing all the right things. From a risk management point of view, this is not good. From a morale point of view it's not good either.

There is nothing wrong in looking at the optimistic outcome as well as the more pessimistic ones.

The same applies to strategic planning and marketing. Perhaps you already have the competitive advantage; perhaps you already have the competences that are needed to thrive in a market. Perhaps your strategy will work to the point of needing more staff, more offices, more support? These situations must be considered.

Be optimistic - there is nothing wrong with it. You will examine the same options as a pessimistic, but perhaps add a few new ones of your own. Given the choice, optimism is, if nothing else, easier to live with.

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