Take a risk - should business follow sport's example?

Bubba Watson took a risk... a BIG one
On Easter Monday I was up nice and early.

You see, for the first time I can remember, the USA Golf Masters was on the same weekend as Easter. And given that it’s played in the USA, I was finally able to watch the final round at a convenient time.1

It was a thrilling final round. Bubba Watson, the affable Christian from Florida2 was up against a South African whose name almost no one can remember anymore.

On the second playoff hole (golf’s equivalent of overtime), Bubba’s tee shot went way right into the Augusta pine trees and he was confronted with an extremely difficult shot to reach the green

This is where things got interesting. Without the benefit of hindsight, should Bubba have gone for the impossible shot or played it safe to give him a chance to salvage the hole?

While you ponder this, perhaps you can also ponder the broader implications. For example, what if you were confronted with a choice like this in everyday life?

Let’s assume you’ve made a monumental screw up at work. Do you try the one-in-a-million solution (to not only get you out of trouble but achieve a great result) or do you play it safe and try to salvage the best result you can?

In sports, fans always cheer for the player who seeks to defy the odds. Quite simply, if you go through your sporting career playing everything safe the fans aren’t really going to be in favour of your game.

Think about it from a business perspective. Who are the people who have been the most ‘successful’? Usually those who have taken a risky gambit which has paid off.

The problem is the entire business universe seems to be rebelling against risk taking.

According to a series of economists and activists alike, excessive risk-taking was one of the primary causes of the global financial crisis. Fund managers and mortgage lenders alike took big risks with clients’ savings and… well… lost.

Now Governments everywhere are responding by implementing increasingly restrictive regulations to stop business executives and financiers undertaking ventures deemed too ‘risky’.

Furthermore, banks and other lenders have tightened their purse strings so almost no one can get any credit anymore.

Yet here was Bubba Watson about to hit his second shot. The biggest golf tournament in the world on the line.

He went for the shot, hit it to within a whisker of the hole, and ended up winning the tournament.

 After that shot, people were hailing his ‘genius’ and ‘sublime skill’. Bubba’s risky venture paid off in spades.

Yet in all the post-tournament commentary, there was no talk of him taking a reckless risk. Why? Because he made the shot.

Bubba's shot to win the Masters. Just awesome.

It’s fascinating that, generally speaking, whenever a risky venture fails to come off critics fall over themselves to criticise the one who tried for the impossible result.

But if it works, critics heap praises on the successful proponent like a torrent of water over Victoria Falls.

So what can we learn from Bubba’s shot? Probably not a lot.

But if you’re phenomenally talented and faced with a risky venture where the stakes are high… surely you’ve got to go for it!

As long as you’re phenomenally talented… and your name is Bubba.


1: Because the Masters are played in Georgia, USA, the final round is usually broadcast on Monday morning Australian time. This year, Monday was a public holiday so I got to watch the whole thing.

2: He's from a town called Bagdad in Florida. Yep, Bagdad...


Tim H said…
This could've been titled 'Growing a pair for business'- good read all the same! Reminds me of this dynamite quote from this Roosevelt bloke (stolen from one R Zacharias)...http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html
Steve Garner said…
Sport is for fun, business is for keeps.
Dylan Malloch said…
Yes, that's an outstanding quote, Timbo. Absolute cracker.