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Optimism Management?

Laurent Bossavit offers an intriguing take on project management — risk management. Whereas risk management can attract a lot of discussion and consideration, Bossavit proposes that it’s not risk that needs to be managed in business — but optimism.

If by “manage” we mean something like “control the amount or supply of something”, then risk is for the most part not something we can manage. What we can control is our attitude to risk – and in that respect, the most serious problem in our industry is optimism, the belief that we can make plans and expect things to reliably unfold according to these plans.

Optimism has its place in project management activities. It is a key component of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is at the heart of the sort of management which projects require. Thus, I often argue that optimism is the occupational disease of managers in project contexts, from startups’ CEOs to project managers in larger enterprises.

At the same time, optimism may well be a leading contributor of project failure, as a factor of blindness to project risks.

Fast Company has long aimed to be an optimistic, progressive business magazine. But we’ve still taken a look at risk, including career development risk, the role of risk managers, and how no reward comes without risks.

We’ve also made the case for pragmatic optimism. But the questions remain. Like innovation, does optimism come with its own risks? And can optimism be managed?

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