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Take the Risk - Dr. Ben Carson



I did a recent podcast where I talked about a great book I read years ago when I was the Chief Security Officer at Microsoft. I have always been a voracious reader of leadership books. Real leaders are readers as it is often said. Many of the books that I read, I would buy for my leadership team and my boss.


One of the books that I gave to my team was "Take the Risk" by Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson spent a career as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He eventually became Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery there and was the first doctor to successfully separate twins who were joined at the back of their heads. He made a career out of successfully operating on conjoined twins. But as he says in his book, these kinds of operations are very risky and many factors have to be weighed before a decision is made to operate or not operate.


Dr. Carson did not take these risks lightly. Children's lives were at stake. The trajectory of their lives rested on Dr. Carson and his team being able to make the best decision. In some cases, the risks were too high to operate and in others, the advantages outweighed the risks. So how did Dr. Carson figure out what to do when facing these complex and important decisions? He came up with a simple, but powerful decision making matrix to help inform his decision.


In essence, Dr. Carson asked four questions of himself and his team:


  • What's the best thing that could happen if we take the risk?

  • What's the worst thing that could happen if we take the risk?

  • What's the best thing that could happen if we don't take the risk?

  • What's the worst thing that could happen if we don't take the risk?


Dr. Carson would then put these questions into a matrix. Best Case/Worst Case on the left hand side of the matrix and Take the Risk/Don't take the Risk on the top of the matrix. Then he and the team would start to put answers within the squares of the matrix. Once populated, the answers would provide thought provoking discussions on whether to proceed with an operation or not. So simple yet so powerful!


I have used this technique myself many times when faced with making critical business and personal decisions. All the variables as to whether or not one should proceed on one path or the other can be plotted on this matrix to help you make your own critical decisions. This is not an end all and be all re making those important decisions. You have your gut and your experience as well in helping you to reach a decision. But using this matrix and asking these four questions will go a long way in helping you and your team to tackle those critical business decisions that you will inevitably have to make. 


Try it and let me know how it goes for you. And definitely read Dr. Carson's book. It goes into his life and career. Very inspirational. 


And if you haven't done so, please subscribe to my "Ronin Leadership Podcast" on YouTube. We have over 46 videos in the podcast with more coming. Think you will like the content and learn from the many guests that I have had on the podcast.

That's it for now. Until next time!

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