A couple of months ago, about 2 weeks after I had my first Astra Zeneca vaccine jab, I had a little chuckle to myself when I caught myself feeling a little bit of relief that I hadn’t died from a blood clot. What made me chuckle was the irrationalness of the thought. I never hesitated when it came to getting the vaccine; however, in this bizarre case, 2 weeks after the event, my feelings didn’t really align with the statistics – I don’t for example, feel an immediate sense of relief that I didn’t die in a car accident every time I get out of my car, despite the risk being significantly higher. We all like to think we are such rational thinkers – particularly when it comes to assessing risk – but in reality, this is not always the case.
When I mentioned this to a friend, she shared with me that she hadn’t had the vaccine because she was worried about the side effects. I didn’t expect this, but it got me ‘drilling’ around to find out why she felt this way. I won’t get into the complexity of it all here – it’s obviously multifaceted, however in this particular case, there was indeed one element of the hesitation which I identified that we see and deal with every day when working with organisations: an insufficient (or non-existent) focus on the cost of not acting.
It’s no coincidence that we are seeing vaccine rates increase dramatically as we deal with outbreaks here in Australia. Among a few key drivers, people are – in many cases for the first time – actually contemplating the risk of getting Covid-19. Before the outbreaks, a simplified example of the equation for many people (and perhaps justifiably so, given the scarcity of the virus) looked something like: get the vaccine with a risk (albeit a very small one) of dying from a blood clot; or don’t get the vaccine and therefore don’t die from a blood clot. That’s it. That’s the equation. Seems obvious that not getting the vaccine is the better option if that’s the equation on which your decision is based.
For the record however, as I write this, for someone aged under 50, the risk of dying from a blood clot from AZ is about 0.00009[i] which is more than 40x lower than the chance of someone aged under 50 in Australia dying from Covid-19 (approx. 0.004[ii]). Therefore, it might be argued that the equation ‘should’ be: get the vaccine and accept a 0.00009 risk of dying from a blood clot; or don’t get the vaccine and accept a 40+ times greater risk (0.004) of dying from Covid-19.
Of course, I’m simplifying vaccination circumstances for the purposes of this article (Pfizer/alternative options, availability, timing, prevalence of the virus, and individual circumstances all play their roles) but this article isn’t really about vaccine choices – you do you! Also, I’m no health professional so don’t take vaccination advice from me – doctors are better for that! The issue I want to address here is the importance, when weighing up risks, of ensuring you have weighed up not acting.
All too often, we see organisations choose the more conservative options when we help with their strategy development process or their strategic pivot. Or we see a radical innovation get shelved or significantly crimped because the risks are deemed to be too high; it typically seems safer to go with the more conservative options. But so often, the people making these decisions have not really contemplated (or they have grossly underestimated) the risks and costs of not taking the more aggressive strategic option or pursuing the more radical innovation. Why? Typically, because they underestimate the rate (or the impact) of change going on around them. Yes – even nowadays!
If the world around you isn’t really changing, then the risks of doing nothing are indeed minimal. However, if you’re operating in a constantly changing and evolving environment (and I’d argue that you almost certainly are!), then be sure to actually articulate the risks associated with doing nothing or taking the more conservative option. Remember, the more conservative option will often feel ‘better’ at the time, but if it’s out of step with the rate of change in your environment, that decision won’t feel so good in the not-too-distant future!
Finally, choosing bold strategies and or pursuing radical innovations does not mean you have to take enormous risks; thankfully there are very robust, proven methodologies and frameworks which can minimize risks significantly and provide safe opportunities for your organisation to be bold. The world is changing rapidly; now is not the time to get left behind.
If you would like any help to develop/pivot your strategy – or to innovate or build the capability to do so, feel free to reach out to us – we’d love to chat! But whether you enlist our help or not, be sure to think about this the next time you have a decision to make.
[i] Calculated via estimated risk of TTS from AZ; and estimated risk of fatality from TTS. Data source: Australian Government Department of Health. 2021 (June 17). A statement from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in response to new vaccine safety concerns. https://www.health.gov.au/