DX8 Topic 14 - Risk and Original Thinking

Monday 11 January 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Venue:  - Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide [please buy a drink at least! We are 'renting' the seats for two hours.]

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. How many kinds of risk can you think of? Which ones are worth it? What do you count as stupid risks?

2. What do you think counts as original thinking? When is originality worth it? When is originality risky?

3. What are considered to be culturally acceptable risks in Australia? In other places?

4. What are some risks that you have taken? What have you learned from them? Have you ever walked away from a sunk cost? Did you have to practice thinking which, for you, was original? [There's a sense in which most of our great ideas have already been thought of by someone else in another time and place, but may be fresh for us. The Internet has changed this equation somewhat].

5. What are worthwhile risks in human relationships? Are risk takers and risk adverse people always mutually incompatible?

6. I've never been in debt, ever. Was this stupid? I saw debts - e.g. a mortgage - as a limit on my freedom of action, freedom of employment, freedom to live anywhere, freedom to remain uncommitted in any way. (Obviously this has been a minority view, and carried its own risks. I don't claim any special virtue for it. Psychologically it was probably similar to never having been married for many of the same reasons).

7. When and for whom is it worth trying to start a new business? Would you? When is original thinking in a business also smart thinking. When will originality merely scare away the customers? Examples? New businesses seem to have a 5 year failure rate of 75% + - for many reasons. It varies with the kind of business of course, and the location.

8. What kind of research is really worth it for individual researchers? Research which truly follows scientific method may carry great risk for individual researchers. This is because most original hypotheses fail, but testing them can take years and cost large amounts. In other words researchers may have to put their reputations, continued employment, careers, and even marriages at risk for little personal reward. Yet many do persist. What drives them? Would you consider a research career?

9. What risks should/can Australia take as a country? How is this kind of calculation different in a democracy from a dictatorship? What are some disastrous risks that countries have taken in the past? What is some whole nation risk taking that has paid off handsomely?

10. With climate change, within a generation Australia is set to become one of the hottest places on earth. Can you suggest some 'blue sky' ideas to keep the place habitable? What kind of risks will we need to take?

Extra Reading & Links

Natalie Wolchover (August 30, 2011) "Why Do People Take Risks?", LiveScience @ https://www.livescience.com/33471-people-take-risks.html  [Quote: "... generally speaking, men tend to take more risks than women do. "Especially with recreational risks and financial risks, you'll find this," said Andreas Wilke, an evolutionary psychologist at Clarkson University and an expert on risk-taking and decision-making. He says the gender divide points to the underlying reason for risk-taking. "Besides societal and cultural reasons, there is also a biological underpinning that in part drives the sex difference," Wilke said. Men have more intra-sexual competition than women do for sex, and so they must advertise their sexual fitness through daring exploits more overtly. "Women are choosier in this context and so are predicted to be more risk-averse," he said. ... Of course, women take risks, too. Research shows they take more social risks than men; for example, they're more likely to change careers late in life or express unpopular opinions in business meetings. But they also take recreational risks . After all, women, just like men, must strive to impress. ... Though people do become less risk-seeking as they age and as they enter into stable relationships, Wilke said men's testosterone level can shoot up again upon getting a divorce, and they again become more risk-prone. "Relationship status makes a surprisingly powerful predictor," he said". ]

Valerie Voon (September 6, 2016) "Why danger is exciting – but only to some people". The Conversation @ https://theconversation.com/why-danger-is-exciting-but-only-to-some-people-64680  [Quote: "It’s (always) about dopamine
Dopamine, used by neurons to transmit messages to other neurons, is often described as the brain’s “pleasure chemical”. Dopamine cells lie in the mid-brain, deep in the base of the brain, and send “projections” to brain regions where the dopamine molecule is released – such as those involved in the control of action, cognition and reward. Studies have shown that the dopamine system can be activated by rewarding experiences, such as eating, having sex or taking drugs".

John Kamensky (September 7, 2017) "When Are Managers Willing to Take Risks?". GovLoop website @ https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/managers-willing-take-risks/  [Quote: "Do federal managers systematically avoid taking risks, or do they regularly try new things, undertake organizational changes and innovate? The common perception is that, as a group, federal managers tend to be risk-averse. However, new research based on data from the annual federal employee viewpoint survey concludes that the answer is: it depends. Managers in both high-performing and low-performing organizations tend to be risk takers. They probably feel they have little to lose by trying something new. In contrast, managers in stable, middle-of-the-road organizations tend to be risk-averse and do not want to rock the boat by taking risks".]

Matthew Jenkin (18 Apr 2016) "Risk in business: does he who dares really win? - An impulse towards risk taking can help entrepreneurs seize opportunities under stress, but resilience, optimism and timing are just as important." The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2016/apr/18/risky-business-dares-win-entrepreneur 

Drake Baker (28 August 2014) "How Happiness, Sun, Parachutes, And Other Things Make You Make Risky Decisions." Business Insider @ https://www.businessinsider.com.au/psychological-reasons-people-take-risks-2014-8?r=US&IR=T 

Marvin Zuckerman (December 2, 2019) "Are You a Risk Taker? - What causes people to take risks? It's not just a behavior. It's a personality". Psychology Today @ https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/articles/200011/are-you-risk-taker 

Luke Smillie & Anna Antinori (28 May 2017) "People With Creative Personalities Really Do See the World Differently - Not only do open people bring a different perspective, but they genuinely see things differently than most". The Conversation @ https://getpocket.com/explore/item/people-with-creative-personalities-really-do-see-the-world-differently 

Jonathan Wolff (15 July 2016) "Why do philosophers make unsuitable life partners?" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/15/why-philosophers-make-unsuitable-life-partners  [Quote: "St Augustine (“grant me chastity, but not yet”) fathered an illegitimate child, but then became a celibate priest. Aquinas and the philosophers of the middle ages were all churchmen. In the 17th and 18th centuries, virtually all of the canonical figures were domestically unconventional. Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Bentham all went unmarried... John Stuart Mill married late in life and had no children of his own. Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre and Wittgenstein were all unmarried and childless. Marx gave up philosophy, turning to economics and politics, when his children were still young ..."] [Thor, comment - Thought for the day - No wonder we are led by politicians who prefer to grab passing opportunity by the pussy, not philosophers. Carpe diem.]

Chris Buckley, David D. Kirkpatrick, Amy Qin and Javier C. Hernández (30 December 2020) "25 DAYS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: HOW COVID-19 SLIPPED CHINA’S GRASP - Beijing acted against the coronavirus with stunning force, as its official narratives recount. But not before a political logjam had allowed a local outbreak to kindle a global pandemic". New York Times @ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/30/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html  [Thor, comment - Here is a case study in political risk aversion - in this instance the avoidance of political risk from Covid-19 - both in China and the United States - which is costing millions of lives worldwide. The big picture - Both truth telling and original ideas which run counter to existing political narratives carry high and sometimes fatal risks for their authors. The fate of Galileo is repeated in each generation. You would never know it from scanning Google Search where there are thousands of vapid nostrums praising "scientific honesty", "originality" and "creativity" from corporations, political parties and wannabe business gurus]

Jessica Wolf (December 22, 2016) "The truth about Galileo and his conflict with the Catholic Church - This year marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the investigation into the Italian astronomer". UCLA Newsroom @ https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-galileo-and-his-conflict-with-the-catholic-church 

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (May 07, 2013) "Is Technology Making Us Stupid (and Smarter)? - How the internet makes life more complex — by making complex things simple". Psychology Today @ https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/mr-personality/201305/is-technology-making-us-stupid-and-smarter  [Thor, comment - This article basically says that Internet information access diminishes the need for crystalized intelligence (what your memory learns and 'knows') but greatly assists our manipulation of fluid intelligence (what we are smart enough to find out and synthesize into new ideas). The risk is a) that we will be able to do less and less without Internet access, and b) (this is hardly discussed) that we will be too lazy to find out & evaluate real existing knowlege (as opposed to 'fake news'), let alone synthesize it into original ideas. My experience teaching young adults in tertiary institutions is that both a) and b) are major risks.]

Kate Conger (February 2018) "The Mess at Meetup" Gizmodo @ https://gizmodo.com/the-mess-at-meetup-1822243738  [Quote: "CEO Scott Heiferman traces Meetup’s origins to the September 11th terrorist attacks—the sense of community in New York City after the tragedy inspired him to start the company. “A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way,” he wrote in a 2011 blog post. “So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet—and grow local communities?” Meetup’s neighborly work environment attracted talented engineers—the staff was more diverse than other tech companies, and the startup was actually making money instead of relying solely on investment to stay afloat. That changed in November [2017], when WeWork acquired Meetup for a reported $30 million. WeWork is the kind of tech company Meetup wasn’t. Valued at more than $20 billion. .... The new values—which, according to portions of a slide deck obtained by Gizmodo, included criticisms of management for being too supportive and empowering, suggesting “managers push to achieve more than we think we can” instead—seemed to conflict with Meetup’s inclusive culture and pushed for more aggressiveness in the workplace ... ]

Mary Lloyd (14 May 2019) "Families take extended breaks from city living and turn their kids into 'road scholars'".
ABC News Analysis @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-14/families-on-the-road-trips-around-australia/11091218 

Tanya Mohn (April 3, 2017) "The Digital Nomad Life: Combining Work and Travel." New York Times @ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/business/digital-nomads-work-tourism.html

James Adonis (31 December 2017) "The problem with the entrepreneurial dream". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/small-business/the-problem-with-the-entrepreneurial-dream-20171221-h08p0w.html  [Quote: "From a purely statistical perspective, there should be no debate, no argument, no doubting whatsoever the simple fact that dreams do not come true for 99.9999 per cent of the population. And that's a conservative estimate In the meantime, the 0.0001 per cent of people fortunate enough to become, say, a movie star or a pop icon tirelessly blabber that if their fans just believed in themselves, then their dreams, too, can come true. Which is obviously not true. The dreams themselves aren't the issue. We all have them. They provide stimulus and excitement. What makes them perilous, and their advocates misleading, is when we assume that they must be achieved at any cost, and that we're the rightful owner of the prize they promise. Suddenly, they aren't just dreams; they're a calling. Especially when they're voiced in terms such as those by Walt Disney: "If you dream it, you can do it." It really is a slippery slope of self-deception – although some might say, "So what? Even if people are deceiving themselves, is that such a bad thing?" Well, yeah, it is. One reason is that self-deception blocks us from accepting important information about ourselves".]

Adele Ferguson (December 9, 2017) "Cup of sorrow: the brutal reality of Australia's franchise king". The Age @ http://www.theage.com.au/business/retail/cup-of-sorrow-the-brutal-reality-of-australias-franchise-king-20171207-h00lbl.html  [Quote:
"Julia Banks will never forget the panic attacks. She still finds herself waking up in the middle of the night, heart pounding and mind racing, from the stress of running a Donut King franchise in Marsden, Queensland. As debts and losses mounted, Banks and her husband John lost their savings and family home".]

Laurie Ruettimann (2018) "Company Culture Is A Myth". Blog @ http://laurieruettimann.com/company-culture-myth/  [Quote: "For years, I’ve been saying that your company doesn’t have a culture. You are incorrectly applying the word “culture” to a group of people who behave a certain way because their lives are dominated by a few powerful figures in your office.That’s it. Your shitty software company or little marketing agency doesn’t have a culture — it has a CEO and a leadership team that has particular points of view about how work should “feel.”... You? You show up and go along with the flow. You cash your check. If you don’t like the vibe in the office, you eventually quit. I’m on record saying that “culture” is what we talk about when a company’s products and services are unremarkable. We pay employees in culture when we can’t pay them in cash".]

Timothy B. Leetim (Dec 28, 2016) "How Amazon innovates in ways that Google and Apple can't". Vox @ http://www.vox.com/new-money/2016/12/28/13889840/amazon-innovation-google-apple  [Quote: "Amazon has figured out how to combine the entrepreneurial culture of a small company with the financial resources of a large one. And that allows it tackle problems most other companies can’t."]

Natasha Robinson and Chris Griffith (December 31, 2020) "21 inventions that will change our world - Breakthroughs in medicine and technology, set to roll out this year, bring hope of a healthier, more entertaining future". The Australian @ https://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/21-innovations-in-science-and-tech-that-will-change-our-world-in-2021/news-story/5a459634cf5ab5c19b1957f7ce381617 

Bourree Lam (January 12, 2016) "What Becomes of Lottery Winners? - Millions are buying Powerball tickets assuming that winning will bring them a prosperous, work-free life, but research suggests they shouldn't be so certain". The Atlantic @ https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/01/lottery-winners-research/423543/ 


Risk and Original Thinking (c) Thor May 2020 

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