How Much Protection Do You Want?

Warning, I have a little politics in this post.

It’s politics season in the US. For me, the presidential race is the ultimate reality TV show. I can’t look away, even when I’m horrified.

Republicans (self-described as conservatives) discuss religious discrimination and walls as a way to keep us safe from terrorism.

Democrats (self-described as liberals) want to have income equality as a way to help the poor (or even people earning a middle income wage) participate better in our consumer-driven economy.

Let me go a little meta about the positions.

I suspect these positions arise from a principle of risk management. We do want to manage our risks. I live in a town where we have municipal water, trash pickup, firefighters and a police force to protect us from dirty/dangerous water, trash-born illnesses, fires burning our houses and neighborhoods, and from criminals. We take these protections as a society so we don’t have to manage the risks ourselves.

You and I manage risks in our personal lives all the time. We manage our money to manage the risk of not being able to pay our bills or save for retirement. We choose food and exercise to manage the risk of illness and longevity. I make other decisions, such as using a rollator outside of the house to prevent the risk of falling from my vertigo. We decide and act, often based on risk.

I have a suspicion about risk management and protection. We believe we need protection when:

  • We cannot manage the risks individually.
  • We don’t trust other people to manage the risks with us.
  • We want assurance from people with more power.

We see risks as a “bogeyman,” or a phrase I’ve been using: the big hairy monster. The big hairy monster exposes our vulnerabilities.

Some managers want assurances that agile will cure their ills, or that teams can “guarantee” schedules. The managers want protection from ambiguity. I find this surprising because we pay managers to manage the ambiguity that arises in organizations. If managers can’t manage the ambiguity, who can?

When I explore ambiguity, I discover subtleties, things that might not occur to me if I take the problem at face value. The subtleties are where serendipity and potential alternative solutions lie. I can create novel ideas when I manage the ambiguity. If I simplify the ambiguity, I might not see alternatives.

For me, that is the surprise of this election season. The politicians think we can’t manage ambiguity. I see little evidence they can, either. When people simplify the problems, they reduce ambiguity. Of course, they also reduce the implications of solutions. (Yes, I realize the media like sound bites, which does not add to reasonable discourse.)

I admit, I like some protections. I like the municipal protections I have now. I even like some of the federal protections. I bet you and I disagree on all the protections the federal government provides us. That’s why we have a democracy and we discuss and vote. It’s okay.

When is the risk of protection is worse than the risk of not protection?

I can’t protect my children from heartache. Neither can I protect them from loss. As they learn to react to losses of all varieties, they build their resilience. I can support them to build their resilience.

I can’t protect my clients from their mistaken beliefs. I can explain, show, interact with them in a way that helps them see alternatives, to build their resilience.

I don’t want my government to protect me from the bogeymen. I want a reasonable discourse about ways to manage risk. I prefer a system of resilience than a system of protection. That’s me and might not fit for you. I don’t think I’ll get that discussion this election season.

Dear adaptable leaders, that is the question this week: How much protection do you want?

2 thoughts on “How Much Protection Do You Want?”

  1. Dear Johanna, thanks again for sharing your thoughts, such clarity of ideas are always welcome.
    A few months ago, I came across this video “It’s Not About The Nail” and as adaptable leaders wanna-be, we had encounter our self in many situations that not even us, as “IT experts”, knew the answer to every possible scenario yet to come, but found our selves and our clients, to be willing to travel the unknown path, with the sense of protection a mutual trusted relation that whenever some possible risk might arise, we will use our IT tools and communication skills to walk together towards a solution. Is not about the nail, is about the support in the commercial relation, based on the always present: human factor.

    1. HI Ale, yes, our human-ness is a huge part of all problems. I often think it’s the most important thing.

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