“Sold to the gentlemen
at table five.”
In minutes, two people engaged in a casual conversation about
the fun of owning and showing a horse became the proud owners
of an Arabian yearling.
The charity auction organizers were ecstatic. Stupid has its
own momentum. I know. I wrote half of the check.
Fourteen partners at Arthur Andersen decided that they could
maintain their independence despite the prospects of $100 million
in annual revenue from Enron. That was not a stupid decision.
That was a greedy decision.
The distinction is important.
For this discussion, “stupid” is defined as a bad
decision stemming from a well-intentioned idea when the facts
and consequences (intended and unintended) are not adequately
We have all seen and/or participated in an experience similar
to my purchase of an Arabian horse. More important, we have witnessed
the result of a well-intentioned idea gone bad in the communities
and organizations we serve. Stupid – once in play – can
take on a life of its own.
It is impossible to eradicate stupid decisions. They can be
minimized by taking three steps when the little voice in your
head is screaming, “I feel stupid coming on!”
- Define and discuss the goal. What is the
real problem you are trying to solve? What is the real opportunity
you want to exploit? Investing time in clearly articulating
the desired outcome helps keep your eye on the desired prize.
- Consider the implications from all sides. The
potential for a bad decision increases when everyone shares
the same world view. Actively consider opposing views. Gather
input from a broad range of constituents. Big decisions require
big steps to build consensus.
- Project success and failure into the future. The
frustrations in your community today are likely the result
of a decision made 15 – 20 years ago. Explore the implications
of success and failure, and recognize the possibility that
today’s excellent choice could be tomorrow’s stupid
Leaders are evaluated by the results of their decisions not
their intentions. To quote the philosopher Forest Gump, “Stupid
is as stupid does.”
So remember – stupid has its own momentum.
It’s your responsibility to prevent as many well-intentioned
but flawed decisions as possible