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Risk and Reassurance

Many processes in organisations can be better understood by remembering that it is not possible to act as member of an organisation (or avoid something), without this being interpreted as decisions. As decisions can be wrong, all behaviour is loaded with risk. So it is no wonder when members develop a multitude of strategies to reassure themselves with regard to this risk:

The behaviour is principally adjusted to risk avoidance. Therefore, one only moves in the ‘permitted’ framework and particularly respects its borders, because, there, unknown risks are hidden. This leads to the infamous ‘bureaucratic’ interaction with the concerns of others.
Decision-making possibilities are explored with regard to certainty. That, which seems more certain, is preferred, i.e. assumptions about certainties are over-interpreted. Arguments easily become path dependent, because one believes one has found a secure aspect, one easily finds further reasons. Thus, one creates the illusion one could master the risks before making decisions.

One can also dance with the devil and position the entire expectation of an (a part) organisation to risk affinity: “We are treading new paths!”, “We are entrepreneurial!”, “Without risk, no gain!”. Instead of avoiding (future) mistakes, one expects to learn from mistakes. Such an expectation pattern – “Mistakes won’t harm a member of the organisation!” – is intensively, and risk-consciously, observed. Any ‘punishment’ of a mistake, as a rule, invokes the asymmetry between trust and mistrust. The first (important) mistake, which is then nevertheless punished, leads to sustained mistrust of the pattern.