Stupidity or Courage?

By Ken Garner
In February 13, 2015

Every critical decision has an element of risk/reward to it; however, sometimes the implications are huge. Let’s look at a recent example that almost everyone will be familiar with – that is, what has been described as the “deciding play” in the most recent Super Bowl. As a refresher, Seattle had the ball with less than a minute to play one yard away from what most likely would have been the winning touchdown. Instead of handing the ball to their star running back (most experts felt that this would have surely resulted in the winning touchdown), the Seattle coaching staff elected to go with a more risky pass attempt. The pass was intercepted preserving New England’s victory. Almost immediately all the pundits, and “arm chair quarterbacks” denounced the decision as the “most bone-headed bad decision in any Super Bowl” leaving the Seattle coaching staff and players in the unenviable position of having to defend their decision as they lamented the loss of a hard-fought game. But, what if the pass had resulted in the winning score? Would the reaction have been the same? Not likely! The Seattle coaching staff would have been praised for their innovative thinking and for their courage to reach for the unconventional.

What does this have to do with us and our businesses? The fact is, we are all “head coaches” faced with making critical decisions on a regular basis. What differentiates “stupidity” from “courage” in the eyes of those on the sidelines is whether the outcome of the decision is successful. But, I disagree. Stepping up, making decisions, and taking the calculated risks that are necessary to business success requires courage. Accepting the responsibility for taking the risks and taking responsibility requires courage. It’s what leadership is all about. Of course, you need to make more good decisions than bad. Too many bad decisions will cost you your job. But, that’s not a reflection of how much courage you have. It’s more a reflection of how much homework you do. You need to be informed and smart about evaluating the degree of risk.

The consistent losers are those who refuse to take risks and make decisions. To continue with my sports analogy, Michael Jordan says “you miss all the shots you don’t take”. So, in your opinion was Pete Carroll stupid, or courageous?

More food for thought…

Ken Garner

President & CEO Ken Garner joined Epicomm – then the Association of Marketing Service Providers – in November 2008 as its President and CEO after a 33 year career in the printing industry – all with the same company. He joined United Litho, a heatset web magazine printing company, after receiving his undergraduate degree. Working his way up the corporate ladder from janitor/delivery driver he held a variety of jobs including V.P of Operations and V.P. of Sales and Marketing. He spent the last 12 years of his printing career as United Litho’s president. In 1994, he engineered the sale of the company to the Sheridan Group and became a member of its Leadership Team.

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