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Be a pragmatic pessimist


Author: Mark Thompson, Founder & MD

Winston Churchill said, ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’

That nicely sums up the tension inherent in mapping risks. If you work on large, complex projects, you might say you must be an optimist. Otherwise, you’d never get out of bed.

But we can too quickly talk ourselves out of the possibility of impacts occurring. ‘I’m just playing devil’s advocate’ shouldn’t lead to the easy dismissal of a risk.

Also, if you don’t consciously sniff out all the risks, you may feel insulated from criticism if one comes to pass. ‘We didn’t consider it,’ is a sloppy defence, though. And a mindset that can lead to catastrophe.

Pragmatic pessimism over energetic optimism.

The desire for certainty can also blind us to opportunities. Ultimately, then, during your risk assessment, you want to err on the side of Murphy’s Law. Which is why one of our core principles at Epeus is to take ‘pragmatic pessimism over energetic optimism’.

Churchill also said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ Another good quote. But if you’re working on large, complex projects, you may prefer to skip the failure and invest in an outside view.

To feel more certain, let’s have a chat.


[Image credit: Winston Churchill on Historic UK]