Don’t throw away your umbrella in a rainstorm

Published by Peter on

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in one of her opinions that a particular action would be “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

man standing in a rainstorm wearing a yellow slicker and holding a big umbrella over a charcoal barbecue
Optimist, pessimist, or realist?

There are similar analogies that could be used.

It’s like taking off your life vest in the middle of the ocean because you are not sinking.

Or like taking down a traffic light in a busy intersection because there are no accidents.

It’s like putting the flat tire back on the car because the car has been driving so well with the spare.

It’s like taking down the fences at the zoo because no one has been attacked by a tiger.

As humans, we are all subject to mental errors that lead to terrible decisions like these. It could be a failure to understand how all the parts of a system work. Or failing to think through unintended consequences. It could be hubris.

It could be the misunderstanding that the remedy you put in place has magically eliminated the original problem. (The umbrella keeps you dry but does not stop the rain. A life jacket is what keeps you from sinking. The spare tire lets the car go but does not fix the flat. Zoo fences keep you safe but do not make tigers harmless.)

A leader’s responsibility is to understand reality and do their best to accurately predict the results of their decisions. (Throwing away the umbrella will free up your hand to carry something else, but it will also expose you to the ongoing rain.)

Too often leaders making rash, poorly thought through decisions that lead to serious unintended consequences. Frequently, these unintended consequences were obvious to anyone paying attention before the decision was made.

Don’t be one of those people who make bad decisions from fear, magical thinking, malice, or ignorance.

And please don’t continue to empower people who insist on making those kinds of decisions over and over and over.

I can help.

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You can help.

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Categories: Decisions


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