Dealing With the Cards You’re Dealt

Since 1994, Annie Duke has dominated the world of poker. She quickly established herself as one of the best players in the world, and won the 2004 No-Limit Texas Hold’em invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions– by beating nine poker legends.

I recently attended a conference at which Duke keynoted. Her topic was decision-making. At first I thought, “Really? A poker player with something to say about decision-making? “

Well, yes, as Duke pointed out, decision-making in poker and business is similar.

Consider first that decision-making during poker occurs under conditions of uncertainty. In other games such as chess, all the potential moves are right in front of you, but in poker everyone is dealt cards face down. Second, you can predict with only some probability which cards are still to come.

As a result, a poker player makes decisions with incomplete information. In other words, takes calculated risks. Sound familiar?

So what are the business implications of you and your staff making decisions in such an environment? Well, obviously failure on one extreme or a big payoff on the other.

Think about this: When an employee makes a mistake or doesn’t get the result you desire, do you chalk it up to the person being a “bad player”? If you do that consistently, employees quickly learn, “If I ever ‘lose,’ my boss is going to think I’m a bad player.” You create a conservative culture in which employees go for the sure thing, for the proven result. Both they and your company experience limited success, but innovation is stifled. And the big payoff remains out of reach.

Remember, it’s really more about how you deal with the cards than the cards you’re dealt.


About Smart Companies Thinking Bigger®

Kelly Scanlon is the owner and publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. She recently finished a term on the national board of directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and was the national chair from 2010-2011. An advocate for small business owners, Kelly sits on numerous boards and committees to advocate on behalf of small business owners. She has won several awards for her advocacy. Among them are the 2011 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award on behalf of Kansas City area small business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Region VII Women's Business Champion of the Year in 2009, and the Women in Business Advocate of the Year from the State of Kansas in 2006. In 2002, she won the SBA's Region VII Small Business Journalist of the Year Award (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas). Whatever your business stage—aspiring, startup, established, mature—Thinking Bigger Business Media has the resources you need to grow to the next level. We are a resource organization dedicated to providing the strategic, "how-to" information small business owners need to become more productive and more profitable. We also provide information that helps owners connect with resources within the business community that can help them grow. We deliver that information through a variety of media products and other channels easily accessible to business owners.
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