The alpha mistake is usually easily spotted. When you accept something you shouldn’t have people will notice. The issue comes when you have failed to accept something, or see something that you should have recognized. This is known as the beta mistake and there is in general little risk with it. Think about not hiring someone who would have been perfect for the job, or not embarking on a project that really should have been executed as it would have brought the company forward. If you hire the wrong person for a job, it will be obvious after a while. When you do a project that
totally fails, it will be obvious after a while. When you fail to hire a person who would have excelled in the job, no one will notice, likewise if you fail to embark on this project that would have been wonderful for your department or business, no one will likely notice. There is little risk with inertia.
These things happen every day and institutional politics and inertia lead to a situation where there little risk anyone will notice the mistake and so great candidates don’t get hired, great advertising campaign never get started and super projects get rejected and no one will ever know if it would have made a difference.
People by their nature do not like change too much. With weak players holding on to the status quo and declining any action that could jeopardize their position, your company or department will in the longer run become stagnant, inert and passed by other departments and companies that did make the brave move and accepted the candidate with the not so obvious resume who turned out to be their next CEO or who embarked on that tricky project that brought them the technology that makes them market leader.
So how do you fight this behavior, how do you encourage your leaders and managers to take appropriate risk and move forward when there are so little consequences of doing nothing and risking nothing? Audits, peer- and sr. management- reviews can help spotting the situation and providing evidence that opportunities have been missed but that’s only after the fact.
Goal Clarity is again a way to a solution here. You need to ensure that your staff understands that you do not hire them to avoid failures but that you hire them to do the right and best things for the department or business. For this you need an environment of openness and trust, understanding and participation by all. Safe and responsible risk taking needs to be accepted and the occasional mishap as a result should not end someones career but instill respect that they have tried and were not afraid to try something in order to do the right thing and not just avoid making mistakes by staying on the beaten path.