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第二十八讲:攀岩感悟(1)

《财富》(中文版) 2011年04月22日

攀岩所带来的后果是真实的。它也是个解决问题的过程。攀岩还是少数几个你的命运完全掌握在合作伙伴手中的运动之一。攀岩使吉姆·柯林斯懂得安全、保守的做法反而能够增加速度和冲劲。

高德思吉姆,我们来谈谈攀岩吧。你是个攀岩爱好者,我对此有点好奇。我自己喜欢飞钓,觉得飞钓中学到的经验常常可以用到工作上,我想攀岩对你应该也是如此吧。但我不太了解攀岩,你给我们讲讲吧。

吉姆·柯林斯我十三岁左右就开始攀岩了。当时是继父强行帮我报的班,我还记得自己被拖去上课时哭着喊着说宁可去学习之类的。不过,学了第一天后,我就无可救药地爱上了攀岩。我觉得自己之所以热爱攀岩,是因为我明白,它所带来的后果是真实的。那时候电子游戏刚出来没几年,我的朋友们都去商场打游戏,或是玩些很“潮”的东西。而我却在攀岩,玩儿真的,有人真因为攀岩而丧命。地心引力才不管你今天过得顺不顺,该不该倒霉,地心引力永远存在。这种运动的残酷性却偏偏吸引了我,我也不知道为什么,但我就是喜欢。

再有,攀岩是个解决问题的过程,你还能欣赏壮观的美景。还有一点,攀岩是少数几个你的命运完全掌握在合作伙伴手中的运动之一。如果同伴放手,你就可能丧命,对吧?攀岩时,你们彼此的确生死与共,你们的命运系在同一根绳子上。这些都是攀岩的魅力。

在我后来的生活中,攀岩仍然是很重要的一部分。我开始发现这些攀岩中学到的道理同样适用于工作及生活的其他方面。甚至有一些对我可谓影响至深。其中一条就是通过攀岩,我深刻认识到了事件发生的概率和结果之间的区别。让我具体解释一下这点。

我们在商学院里学过期望值的概念,这是一个非常有影响力的概念。我自己是学数学的,所以很相信期望值。事件发生的概率乘以事件的价值,就是该事件的期望值。所以,假设我有百分之一的可能性得到100美元的收益,我的期望值就是一美元。但是,假设你有百分之一的可能性得到负无穷的结果呢?那你该怎么评估收益?这百分之一的可能性会带来巨大的灾难。这时候期望值理论就不适用了,你得考虑风险的切实后果。

攀岩时,你知道可能发生哪些情况,哪些情况则不太可能出现。于是就决定冒险。可是,一旦你背运,后果可能是万劫不复。你要么摔瘸了,要么摔死了,你所犯的错误是无法弥补的,不会有机会说,我下次不这么干了。

现在,我们回顾一下金融危机。有意思的是,各个因素加总起来考虑,金融危机发生的概率似乎很小。但是危机一旦发生,后果却极其严重。在这种情况下,你必须采取不一样的做法,导致你的杠杆比率过高。哦,虽然出问题的几率很小,但一旦厄运真的落到你头上,后果会有多严重呢?你会撞岩石架吗?我是说,你会伤得多重呢?所以在攀岩时,人们所说的风险是真正的底线,是最严重的后果。这和金融领域对风险的理解不同,不是指波动性。

 

   

Thomas D. Gorman: Jim, let's talk a little bit about rock climbing, you're a passionate rock climber and I'd be curious, I'm a fly fishermen and I can see applications and learning from fly fishing that can apply to business, I'm sure there's a lot in rock climbing as well. I don't know much about rock climbing, so you'll have to educate us.

Jim Collins: Well, climbing has been part of my life since I was 13 or so years old. And my stepfather signed me up for a climbing class against my will. I think I remember being dragged off to the class and whining something like I'd rather study. Anyway, after the first day, I totally had fallen in love with climbing. And I think the reason I fell in love with climbing is that the consequences are very real. So, my friends would be hanging out at the mall playing video games, early days of video games, or whatever happened to be "in". I was in a situation where, it's real and people die doing this and gravity doesn't care if you've had a good day or a bad day, doesn't care if you deserve to be caught or not, it just doesn't care and it's there all the time. So, the unforgiving nature of it, just kind of somehow appealed to me, I don't know why, it just did.

Plus the problem solving aspect of it, the fact that you can see some incredibly beautiful places, the fact is, it's one of the few activities where your life is literally in the hands of your partner. And if your partner drops you, you could die, right? You are truly with each other, tied together by a piece of rope..., all these wonderful things about climbing.

But, as I went on with other parts of my life, climbing is still a big part of my life. I've begun to see these back and forth lessons from climbing to business to other walks of life. And a few of them, kind of, jump out to me. One is that is really being clear on the difference between the probability of events and consequence of events. Let me explain what I mean by this.

We're taught in business school the idea of expected value, and it's actually a very powerful idea. I come from a math background, I believe in expected value. You take the probability of the event and multiply it times the value of that event and you have the expected value of that event. So, if I have a one percent chance of a $100 payoff, I've got an expected value of one dollar. But let's suppose, you have a situation where you have a one percent chance of an infinite negative. How do you assess that? You got a one percent chance that is truly catastrophic. There the concept of expected value doesn't apply, but you have to think about risk in terms of the real consequences of what happens.

And so, in climbing you learn yeah, there may be, there's certain kinds of things, well, it's unlikely that X will happen. I'll take this extra risk here. But, if it goes against you, it's the type of thing you may never get a chance to learn from again. Because you're crippled, or you're dead and if you make certain kinds of mistakes, you don't get to recover from them, and say, oh, I'll do it different next time.

But now, when we stand back and we think about, for example, everything that's just happened in the financial crisis. It's very interesting, you start adding up all the pieces and you kind of say, ok wait a minute, we may have a low probability event, but a low probability event with a really, really big negative consequence. That has to be managed differently, so you have excess leverage ratios. Oh, the probability that it was going to turn against us was relatively low, but what happens if it actually does? Do you hit a ledge? I mean, how badly can you get hurt? So, I think in climbing that sense of thinking of risk, in terms of the real bottom line, the big consequence, which is very different from what you see in finance, you don't think of risk as volatility.

 

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