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企业如何平衡风险和机会?专家给出三个建议

企业如何平衡风险和机会?专家给出三个建议

Brian O'Keefe 2020年05月22日
这位73岁高龄的人士在职业生涯中一直专注于从当前纷繁复杂的干扰中寻找未来的契机。

50多年来,皮特·施瓦茨一直致力于研究风险与机会之间的平衡关系。作为原油巨头皇家壳牌的形势策划负责人,以及作为包括《少数派报告》和史诗级灾难片《天地大冲撞》等多部科幻电影的咨询师,这位73岁高龄的人士在其职业生涯中一直专注于从当前纷繁复杂的干扰中寻找未来的契机。然而,他以前从未经历过像新冠危机这样难以预测、令人疑惑不解的风险场景。

施瓦茨说:“我自1972年以来便在从事这一行。不确定性如此之大的事件我还是头一次经历。我曾经历过上个世纪70年代的原油危机、多次金融危机、911袭击以及两场伊拉克战争,但它们与这场疫情相比却是相形见绌。因此,人们的这种不确定感完全是合乎情理的。这并非是人们能够弄明白,并找到正确答案的事情。我们没有这个能力。”

首先我想告诉大家一个事实:我们对于这种病毒了解的并不多。它是否会变异成更加致命的形式?第二波疫情是否会比第一波更严重?疫苗或有效的治疗方式(如果有的话)什么时候才能面世?然后就是对经济的焦虑:我们是否将陷入长期萧条?“重启”的金融后果是否比关闭的痛楚更严重?

图片来源:Selman Design

这些难解问题所形成的完美组合给我们带来了无与伦比的压力。圣塔克拉拉大学里维商学院教授赫西·舍夫林说:“真正有风险的事物往往都具有两面性。第一,其后果会导致恐惧感。第二,它会带来大量的不确定性,因此我们会感到自己失去了掌控权。”不妨再好好想一想。

与疫情共存意味着去应对这个风险无处不在的新常态。频繁传来的噩耗(截至5月中旬,美国有8万人死于新冠疫情,超过3000万人失业)加深了人们的恐惧感,而且可能会让整个社会瘫痪。它还会引发事故以及可能妨碍人们决策行为的大脑本能反应。对于企业领袖来说,这种极端的不确定性只会放大人们所面临的威胁,包括对其员工健康和福祉的威胁,对公司短期生存的威胁以及对公司长期规划能力的威胁。策略师称,关键在于理解风险如何影响我们的思想,然后打造能够规避这一影响的系统,并让人们能够开启新的机遇。

兼顾短期与长期

管理咨询公司Future Today Institute创始人兼首席执行官艾米·韦伯能够感受到这种扑面而来的决策疲劳,这一点在其客户的电话中得到了充分体现。韦伯说:“所有人都想知道未来会怎么样。如今,他们并不知道未来会发生什么,但每天依然得做出无数个决定,他们此前从未遇到过这样的事情。”这种情况下存在一种危险:领导者会打退堂鼓并加强对其专注点的控制。韦伯说:“所有人都会变狭隘。你在做决策时只会依据你已经明确掌握的事情。”

为了让其客户摆脱这一模式,韦伯使用了一款她称之为“时间锥”的虚拟工具。窄端代表短期,期间的战术依据的是能够直接获取的数据和证据。随着时间的推移,圆锥会变宽,意味着数据和结果的不确定性将不断扩大。这便是战略区。韦伯认为,首席执行官们应敦促自己去设想世界今后可能的发展趋势,并决定其公司如何在新格局中开展竞争。如今,这一点比以往任何时候都更重要。

在这个时期,数据比直觉更重要,也自然比“我们过去惯常的行事经验”更为重要。

让我们举例来说明推断的变化速度。韦伯提到了医疗产业,“它是我们亲眼所见的转型案例。”远程医疗的必要性出现了大幅提升。更多的消费者都在线上预订处方,而且运送物资的无人机已经开始起飞。提升新冠病毒测试能力的需求可能会给亚马逊和沃尔玛这类已经看好该行业的非传统参与者提供另一个准入机会。所有这些趋势对于那些果断采取行动的企业来说,可能是一次机会,但对于那些被动防守的公司来说可能是一场灾难。

韦伯认为,如今,所有大公司都应建立一个鉴别部门,来平衡战术建模与策略建模之间的关系,例如针对疫情的CentCom。韦伯说:“在这个时期,数据比直觉更重要,也自然比‘我们过去惯常的行事方式’”更为重要。”

平衡你的偏见

当舍夫林教授行为风险管理学时,他向其学生发出的第一个有关偏见的警告就是过度乐观。他说:“人们对于自己碰到有利事件的可能性存在不切实际的想法。然而,人们尤其会认为,尽管糟糕的事情是不可避免的,但自己碰到的可能性不大。”研究显示,人们倾向于高估自身的技能,以及对事情的控制能力,并认为糟糕的事情不会发生在我们这类人身上。

与此同时,我们在愤怒之下做出的决策会与我们在所谓的冷静时刻所做的决策完全不同。这里有一个经典的案例,股民在股市下跌时查看股市行情的次数越多,她/他感到恐慌并抛售股票的可能性就越大。不确定性会引发人们的损失规避本能,我们的福祉受损失恐惧的影响要比潜在收益的影响更大。解决之道在于,在自己最理性的时候进行探索或摸索出经验:例如找到在股价下跌至某一水平时的购入点或股价上涨后谨慎获利的抛售点。

克里斯滕•博曼建议,各大公司应在其运营规划中运用同样的原则,尤其在当前这个时期更应如此。行为设计公司Irrational Labs首席执行官和创始人博曼认为,商业领袖应提前开展现实核查,即公司愿意投入多少来重新招聘员工或在某个特定的业务线领域能够承受的最大损失是多少,因为第二波疫情可能会对公司财务造成毁灭性打击。博曼说:“如果我们意识到自己有乐观主义偏向,那么我们可以尝试着反问自己:‘如果疫情继续发展下去会怎么样?我该怎么做?’”

重置心智模式

2016年,英格兰巴斯大学的两名研究员发布了一项测试“习惯不连续性假设”的调查,也就是当人们已经做出重大改变时,例如搬新家,其在某一领域的行为更容易得到改变。二人的研究结果显示,那些迁移至其他居所的人士更容易接受行为的变化,而且最初三个月是行为改变的最佳窗口期。

Irrational Labs的博曼说,人们在动荡时期对改变所持的开放心态意味着新冠危机是各大公司向客户引入产品的新“心智模式”或商业模式的绝佳机会。心智模式是我们大脑对产品和服务如何工作以及我们与它们之间的关系的理解。谷歌搜索是免费的。我在健身房而不是在家中健身,每月得支付会费。亚马逊Fire平板可以用于阅读或看电影。一旦我们养成某种习惯,便很难改变。

伺机而动的公司会最大化利用疫情提供的这个窗口。例如在3月,居家健身公司Peloton推出了其健身应用免费使用30-90天的活动,并在6周内获得了110万的下载量。4月,亚马逊开始为Fire用户提供一年的直播和点播烹饪课免费注册。在家健身以及利用Fire来烹饪可能会成为很多人的一种习惯。

基本上所有公司都可以,或者都应该在眼下运用这些实验所总结出的策略。博曼说:“关键在于审视客户当前对待公司的心智模式,看看这是不是你希望保留的模式,然后再重新定义公司今后的心智模式。”当不确定性大行其道时,你不妨将其转化为自己的优势。

本文另一版本登载于《财富》2020年6月、7月刊,题为《直面不可避免的风险》。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

50多年来,皮特·施瓦茨一直致力于研究风险与机会之间的平衡关系。作为原油巨头皇家壳牌的形势策划负责人,以及作为包括《少数派报告》和史诗级灾难片《天地大冲撞》等多部科幻电影的咨询师,这位73岁高龄的人士在其职业生涯中一直专注于从当前纷繁复杂的干扰中寻找未来的契机。然而,他以前从未经历过像新冠危机这样难以预测、令人疑惑不解的风险场景。

施瓦茨说:“我自1972年以来便在从事这一行。不确定性如此之大的事件我还是头一次经历。我曾经历过上个世纪70年代的原油危机、多次金融危机、911袭击以及两场伊拉克战争,但它们与这场疫情相比却是相形见绌。因此,人们的这种不确定感完全是合乎情理的。这并非是人们能够弄明白,并找到正确答案的事情。我们没有这个能力。”

首先我想告诉大家一个事实:我们对于这种病毒了解的并不多。它是否会变异成更加致命的形式?第二波疫情是否会比第一波更严重?疫苗或有效的治疗方式(如果有的话)什么时候才能面世?然后就是对经济的焦虑:我们是否将陷入长期萧条?“重启”的金融后果是否比关闭的痛楚更严重?

这些难解问题所形成的完美组合给我们带来了无与伦比的压力。圣塔克拉拉大学里维商学院教授赫西·舍夫林说:“真正有风险的事物往往都具有两面性。第一,其后果会导致恐惧感。第二,它会带来大量的不确定性,因此我们会感到自己失去了掌控权。”不妨再好好想一想。

与疫情共存意味着去应对这个风险无处不在的新常态。频繁传来的噩耗(截至5月中旬,美国有8万人死于新冠疫情,超过3000万人失业)加深了人们的恐惧感,而且可能会让整个社会瘫痪。它还会引发事故以及可能妨碍人们决策行为的大脑本能反应。对于企业领袖来说,这种极端的不确定性只会放大人们所面临的威胁,包括对其员工健康和福祉的威胁,对公司短期生存的威胁以及对公司长期规划能力的威胁。策略师称,关键在于理解风险如何影响我们的思想,然后打造能够规避这一影响的系统,并让人们能够开启新的机遇。

兼顾短期与长期

管理咨询公司Future Today Institute创始人兼首席执行官艾米·韦伯能够感受到这种扑面而来的决策疲劳,这一点在其客户的电话中得到了充分体现。韦伯说:“所有人都想知道未来会怎么样。如今,他们并不知道未来会发生什么,但每天依然得做出无数个决定,他们此前从未遇到过这样的事情。”这种情况下存在一种危险:领导者会打退堂鼓并加强对其专注点的控制。韦伯说:“所有人都会变狭隘。你在做决策时只会依据你已经明确掌握的事情。”

为了让其客户摆脱这一模式,韦伯使用了一款她称之为“时间锥”的虚拟工具。窄端代表短期,期间的战术依据的是能够直接获取的数据和证据。随着时间的推移,圆锥会变宽,意味着数据和结果的不确定性将不断扩大。这便是战略区。韦伯认为,首席执行官们应敦促自己去设想世界今后可能的发展趋势,并决定其公司如何在新格局中开展竞争。如今,这一点比以往任何时候都更重要。

在这个时期,数据比直觉更重要,也自然比“我们过去惯常的行事经验”更为重要。

让我们举例来说明推断的变化速度。韦伯提到了医疗产业,“它是我们亲眼所见的转型案例。”远程医疗的必要性出现了大幅提升。更多的消费者都在线上预订处方,而且运送物资的无人机已经开始起飞。提升新冠病毒测试能力的需求可能会给亚马逊和沃尔玛这类已经看好该行业的非传统参与者提供另一个准入机会。所有这些趋势对于那些果断采取行动的企业来说,可能是一次机会,但对于那些被动防守的公司来说可能是一场灾难。

韦伯认为,如今,所有大公司都应建立一个鉴别部门,来平衡战术建模与策略建模之间的关系,例如针对疫情的CentCom。韦伯说:“在这个时期,数据比直觉更重要,也自然比‘我们过去惯常的行事方式’”更为重要。”

平衡你的偏见

当舍夫林教授行为风险管理学时,他向其学生发出的第一个有关偏见的警告就是过度乐观。他说:“人们对于自己碰到有利事件的可能性存在不切实际的想法。然而,人们尤其会认为,尽管糟糕的事情是不可避免的,但自己碰到的可能性不大。”研究显示,人们倾向于高估自身的技能,以及对事情的控制能力,并认为糟糕的事情不会发生在我们这类人身上。

与此同时,我们在愤怒之下做出的决策会与我们在所谓的冷静时刻所做的决策完全不同。这里有一个经典的案例,股民在股市下跌时查看股市行情的次数越多,她/他感到恐慌并抛售股票的可能性就越大。不确定性会引发人们的损失规避本能,我们的福祉受损失恐惧的影响要比潜在收益的影响更大。解决之道在于,在自己最理性的时候进行探索或摸索出经验:例如找到在股价下跌至某一水平时的购入点或股价上涨后谨慎获利的抛售点。

克里斯滕•博曼建议,各大公司应在其运营规划中运用同样的原则,尤其在当前这个时期更应如此。行为设计公司Irrational Labs首席执行官和创始人博曼认为,商业领袖应提前开展现实核查,即公司愿意投入多少来重新招聘员工或在某个特定的业务线领域能够承受的最大损失是多少,因为第二波疫情可能会对公司财务造成毁灭性打击。博曼说:“如果我们意识到自己有乐观主义偏向,那么我们可以尝试着反问自己:‘如果疫情继续发展下去会怎么样?我该怎么做?’”

重置心智模式

2016年,英格兰巴斯大学的两名研究员发布了一项测试“习惯不连续性假设”的调查,也就是当人们已经做出重大改变时,例如搬新家,其在某一领域的行为更容易得到改变。二人的研究结果显示,那些迁移至其他居所的人士更容易接受行为的变化,而且最初三个月是行为改变的最佳窗口期。

Irrational Labs的博曼说,人们在动荡时期对改变所持的开放心态意味着新冠危机是各大公司向客户引入产品的新“心智模式”或商业模式的绝佳机会。心智模式是我们大脑对产品和服务如何工作以及我们与它们之间的关系的理解。谷歌搜索是免费的。我在健身房而不是在家中健身,每月得支付会费。亚马逊Fire平板可以用于阅读或看电影。一旦我们养成某种习惯,便很难改变。

伺机而动的公司会最大化利用疫情提供的这个窗口。例如在3月,居家健身公司Peloton推出了其健身应用免费使用30-90天的活动,并在6周内获得了110万的下载量。4月,亚马逊开始为Fire用户提供一年的直播和点播烹饪课免费注册。在家健身以及利用Fire来烹饪可能会成为很多人的一种习惯。

基本上所有公司都可以,或者都应该在眼下运用这些实验所总结出的策略。博曼说:“关键在于审视客户当前对待公司的心智模式,看看这是不是你希望保留的模式,然后再重新定义公司今后的心智模式。”当不确定性大行其道时,你不妨将其转化为自己的优势。

本文另一版本登载于《财富》2020年6月、7月刊,题为《直面不可避免的风险》。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Peter Schwartz has spent five decades studying the balance between risk and opportunity. As the head of scenario planning for oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, as a consultant on movies such as the sci-fi thriller Minority Report and disaster epic Deep Impact, and since 2011 as the senior vice president for strategic planning at cloud software phenomenon Salesforce.com, the 73-year-old has devoted his career to peering past the noise of the present to focus on the future. But never before has he seen a risk scenario as unpredictable and confusing as the coronavirus crisis.

“I’ve been doing this since 1972,” says Schwartz. “This is the greatest level of uncertainty I’ve seen—ever. I’ve been through the oil crises of the 1970s, several financial crises, the attacks of 9/11, and two different Iraq wars. It all pales next to this. So, you know, if people are uncertain, it is thoroughly appropriate. It’s not like somehow you could figure it out and get the right answer. You can’t.”

Start with the fact that there is so much about the virus that we don’t know: Will it mutate into an even deadlier form? Will the second wave be worse than the first? When will we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment—if ever? Then there’s the economic anxiety: Are we headed into a long depression? Will the financial consequences of “reopening” be even worse than the pain of the shutdown?

Together these hard-to-answer questions add up to the perfect formula for maximizing the stress we feel. “Something that is really risky has two features,” says Hersh Shefrin, a professor at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and a leading expert in behavioral finance. “The first is that the consequences induce a sense of dread. Second, there’s a great deal of uncertainty, so we don’t feel we have control.” Check, and check.

Living with the pandemic means navigating this new normal of pervasive risk. The drumbeat of grim news—more than 80,000 dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. by mid-May and over 30 million people out of work—is an accelerant for our fears. It can be paralyzing. And it triggers ancient, hardwired reactions in our brains that can undermine our decision-making. For business leaders, the extreme uncertainty only amplifies the threats they’re facing—to the health and well-being of their employees, to their companies’ short-term survival, and to their ability to plan for the long run. What’s key, say strategists, is to understand how risk affects our thinking and create systems that mitigate it and allow us to unlock new opportunities.

Think near and far

Amy Webb can feel the decision-fatigue setting in. It comes through loud and clear in the calls she is getting from her clients. “Everybody wants to know what’s next,” says Webb, the founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, a management consulting firm. “They haven’t been in a position before where they’re having to make 1,000 decisions a day without any clear understanding of what’s coming.” One danger in that scenario is that leaders pull back and tighten their focus. “Everybody gets narrow,” says Webb. “You start to make decisions just based on the stuff that you already know really well.”

To break her clients out of that mode, one visual tool Webb uses is what she calls a “time cone.” The narrow end represents the near term, with tactics informed by the most data and evidence available. As you go further out in time, the cone widens to demonstrate the widening uncertainty of data and outcomes. That is the strategy zone. And it’s more important than ever right now, Webb argues, for CEOs to push themselves to imagine how the world is likely to evolve and decide how their companies want to compete in that new landscape.

This is a time when data matters more than gut. And certainly more than, ‘well, this is what we’ve always done in the past.’

As just one example of how quickly assumptions can change, Webb points to health care, “which is being transformed before our eyes.” Telemedicine is soaring by necessity. More consumers are ordering prescriptions online, and drone deliveries of supplies are beginning to take flight. And the need to ramp up coronavirus testing capacity could give another entry point to nontraditional players like Amazon and Walmart who are already circling the industry. All of these trends could spell opportunity for those who act boldly, and trouble for companies that stay in a defensive crouch.

Webb believes that right now every big company should establish a triage organization to balance tactical and strategic modeling—a CentCom for the pandemic if you will. “This is a time when data matters more than gut,” says Webb. “And certainly more than, ‘Well, this is what we’ve always done in the past.’ ”

Balance your biases

When Shefrin teaches behavioral risk management, the first bias he warns his students about is excessive optimism. “People are unrealistic about the likelihood that favorable events will happen to them,” he says. “But they especially think bad things are less likely to happen to them than is warranted.” Research shows that we tend to overrate our own skills, overestimate our control over events, and assume that we just aren’t the type of people that bad things happen to.

At the same time, we make different decisions in the heat of the moment than we would if we were in a so-called cold state. A classic example is that the more often a person checks stock prices in a falling market, the more likely she or he is to panic and sell. The uncertainty triggers our inherent sense of loss aversion—our well-being is impacted more by the fear of loss than the potential for gain. The solution is to create heuristics, or rules of thumb, while we’re at our most rational: triggers to buy stocks when prices fall to a certain level, for example, or sell when they rise high enough that it’s prudent to take profits.

Kristen Berman advocates that companies apply the same principles to their operational planning, particularly now. The CEO and cofounder of Irrational Labs, a behavioral design company, Berman suggests that business leaders conduct a reality check in advance on, say, how much they’re willing to invest in rehiring or what kinds of losses they can withstand in a given business line, knowing that a second wave of the pandemic could be devastating financially. “If we realize we have an optimism bias,” says Berman, “we can put in little checks to say, ‘What if it’s still going on at this point? What do I do?’ ”

Reset the mental model

Back in 2016, a pair of researchers at the University of Bath in England published a study testing the “habit discontinuity hypothesis”—that it’s easier to change people’s behavior in a certain area, like recycling more or reducing water use, when they’re already making a major change, such as moving to a new home. Their results confirmed that people who uproot are more open to behavioral changes, and that the window of opportunity was greatest in the first three months.

That openness to change during a time of disruption, says Berman of Irrational Labs, means that the coronavirus crisis is a golden opportunity for companies to introduce a new “mental model” of their products or their business model to customers. The mental model is the understanding we have in our minds about how products and services work, and our relationship to them. Google Search is free. I pay a monthly fee to work out at the gym, not at home. The Amazon Fire tablet is for reading or watching movies. Once our habits are established, they’re hard to change.

Opportunistic companies are making the most of the window offered up by the pandemic. In March, for instance, at-home fitness company Peloton boosted the free trial period for its exercise app from 30 to 90 days, and got 1.1 million downloads in six weeks. In April, Amazon started giving away one-year free subscriptions to live and on-demand cooking classes for Fire users. Working out at home and cooking with Fire might become habits for many.

The strategy behind these experiments is one that virtually any company can and probably should apply right now. “The key is to look at the mental model that customers currently have with you, see if that’s the one you want to keep, and then redefine the mental model going forward,” says Berman. When uncertainty reigns, you might as well turn it to your advantage.

A version of this article appears in the June/July 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline "Facing the unavoidable risk."

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