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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Experiencing Bad or Good Luck? The Answer Is Be Prepared!

It is strange that some people seem to wish others Good Luck in the most odd circumstances. For example why would we wish some good luck when they are about to have an operation?  Far better to wish the surgeon a good night’s sleep and a steady hand.

The dictionary definition of luck is “the force that makes things happen, for good or evil, by chance and not as a result of effort or ability”.

Let’s take an example. We bet on whether a tossed coin will com down heads to tails and, lo and behold, it comes down heads ten times consecutively.   For obvious statistical reasons the more we toss the coin, eventually it will come down 50/50 heads and tails.  Ten times running is a statistical aberration and will eventually be absorbed into the 50/50.

However the luck effect depends on the original decision; whether we bet heads or tails and then on the number of times we are right (or lucky).

In any case we are not in control of the outcome and we are betting on chance that we will win.

One of the very valuable exercises that are regularly practiced by members of my Vistage CEO peer group is PESTLE; the analysis of events that might occur and that might as a consequence affect our decision making and consequently the business.

  • P - political
  • E - economic
  • S - sociological
  • T - technological
  • L - legal
  • E - environmental

None of these factors can normally be controlled by the individual as they are all the results of outside influences.  However, each one can be debated ahead of time to assess the potential impact on the business.

Each one therefore is a harbinger of luck; would a change in the situation affect us positively or negatively?  In other words would we be hit by bad luck or encouraged by good luck?

It is a good plan to make sure that potential PESTLE events are debated at top team level on a regular basis, perhaps six-monthly.  Brainstorming each factor can bring to light areas of activity in the business that are perhaps under-resourced or even unconsidered.  

At some point in time the unexpected can hit and it is better to be prepared at least to some level than have to reply on reactivity plus the “bad luck again” syndrome.

The psychological problem is the luck seems to be catching, be it good or bad.  How many times have we heard the moan that “we are having a run of bad luck right now” accompanied by a shake of the head and plenty of tut-tutting?

Seldom do we hear that we are having a run of good luck that is presumably the result of brilliant decision making together with compliant and loving customers.

The answer is to be prepared at least to some extent and make assumptions that if an event occurs then we will be prepared for its effects.

My old friend, brilliant economist and top Vistage speaker, Roger Martin-Fagg says that economic predictions are either wrong or lucky.  Events can have exactly the same effect.

Even more cogently the great South African golfer, Gary Player says that “the more I practice the luckier I get” and that puts it into perspective.

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