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Michael Rake on intuition vs planning

Updated Friday 18th February 2011

"Low probability, high impact events are the ones you have to react to"

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Michael Rake: You need to have some intuition, some judgement about the issues you’re in, and you need sometimes to pause to reflect on the decisions that you make on the basis of the information you’ve seen. But you can’t be sort of so, you know, you can’t analyse this to death.

Reflection is fine to give you a bit of time to let your intuition understand the issues you’re faced with, with a proper analysis of the facts, but you can’t become so introverted about it that you don’t make a decision at all. And you’ve got move quickly when you’re dealing with many risk issues.

Interviewer: And can you give an example of that?

Michael Rake: Well I mean I think what I would say is you’ve seen many cases where risk that hit people are sort of, the kind of improbable but high impact. Low probability high impact events are the ones you have to react to most quickly. I mean the famous textbook case at the moment of course is the BP oil spill.

You know, where you have things moving very fast, with very low levels of probability, what happened, what they did with huge impact, with instant global implications in your brand, your people, your business. That’s probably the current textbook example of why businesses have to be alert, agile, quick to deal with these issues.

And I understand what, and some of that you don’t have the time to analyse, you’ve got to have an intuitive reaction as to how to handle the PR, how to handle the issue, how to handle the politicians, how to quickly try and give yourself the room to solve the problem before you become overwhelmed by the politics and the press.

Interviewer: And do you think they were relying on intuition?

Michael Rake: I think that they would absolutely say there were a lot of lessons learned by BP from that example. And by the way, by just about every other large business I know has said ‘there but for the grace of god could go I’.

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