Thursday, January 2, 2014

Success and Risk

Over the last two weeks, I had a school reunion and I resumed my reading of David and Goliath - a book by Malcolm Gladwell. While I will post a longer review of the book at some point in time but, the meeting with the batch that we passed out made for some interesting thoughts.

Two things stood out in particular. One was that the best students in school - those who topped the exams, those who did well in studies - are all in one band. The band that does the 'predictable' stuff. Perhaps in marquee names, perhaps in the big companies, perhaps with the so called bigger destinations - but working on what I call as 'predictable' careers.

On the other hand, are those who were not 'great' at studies at school, but are following their passion and /or working on non-mainstream fields. These are the guys doing the unpredictable stuff. Those who took a leap of faith and found themselves rewarded in the end. Now not great does not mean bad in studies - and I believe there is no such thing - except perhaps bad measurement - but not great meaning that they were people who were the 'average' or the 'mid rangers' at school.

There are many other types and exceptions, but let us leave that out for now.

There is this part which Gladwell touches in his book - about people with apparent weaknesses - having to work extra hard to do something - and hence achieve a different type of success.

Putting two and two together, it strikes me that people who have early successes in school - and when I mean school, I mean, a kind of assessment based system that in hindsight seems to reward mainly compliance and obedience and low risk taking - are precisely those people who take lower risks and hence land up in predictable fields.

On the other hand, those who do have these early successes, explore more, ask more questions, perhaps are not so scared of 'failure' and 'trying' and 'knocking doors' - are the ones who end up taking more risk and usually better rewarded.

Which brings me to the second question - does greater success in early education lead one to take lower risk (and this is a question I have thought about often)?

And what if we connect this back to the organization and organization development?

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