Does Aversion to Risk Equal Less Success – On the Golf Course it might

By |Published On: June 26, 2012|

A colleague shared an interesting article with me the other day. The article (attached here) was about a study done at the Wharton Business School on professional golfers.

The premise is professional golfers miss putts for birdie more often than the miss the identical putts for par. The reason – bogeys are more dreaded than pars so they actually risk more to make the par putt than the birdie. Of course that doesn’t make logical sense when you realize the goal of the golf tournament isn’t to be closest to par, it’s to have fewer strokes than any other player.

As a golfer, I thought the article was very interesting. As a business person, I wondered if the same psychological issues could be found in business.

It surely can.  Think about the salesperson who is afraid of making a call on a particularly challenging prospect.  If the salesperson doesn’t make the effort – doesn’t go for the putt – they won’t make the sale.  What about the business owner who is not willing to take a risk to expand his business into new market opportunities – if he doesn’t take that risk, his business not only won’t grow, but might shrink.

Bottom line is this – it’s natural to be risk averse.  Successful people figure out how to overcome their aversion to risk but still manage it so they don’t take too much risk and fail.  After all, the professional golfer who makes birdie more often will win.  But if that same golfer runs his birdie putts past the hole so far he can’t also save par, will lose.

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