I just finished Make Your Own Luck by Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson. What a great book!

My background is in engineering and science, then business. As an engineer, I really liked that there’s a “right answer.” Or at least, there are clear wrong answers (the bridge will collapse if we make it out of tissue paper, period). In business, things aren’t so easy. Most situations have too many factors to identify, let alone consider deeply. Shareholders interact with managers who interact with technology and customer service people and engineers and operations and … it’s tough to know how to think about all this.

Make Your Own Luck lays out a 12-step process (hmm…) for taking risks. Some of the steps sound simple: Know your big goals before you begin, so when you make bets in your life, you’re betting on what you actually want. Sounds obvious? Yeah, but in my own work with executives, I’ve found that people easily lose sight of their real goals(1). The power from Shapiro and Stevenson’s approach comes from having a rigorous checklist to consider when making risky bets.

Some of their tools help evaluate risks that I’ve never known how to tackle. For example, the authors reject the conventional wisdom that “reward requires risk,” and give us “prediction maps,” a tool for identifying low-risk, high-reward opportunities. Simple, elegant, and practically useful.

Their other big new tool is “uncertainty grids.” Uncertainty grids let you quickly test your plans against combinations of uncertainties to realize whether you’ve unconsciously anchored yourself to a single scenario, or whether your plans can survive multiple uncertain events.

The writing style is fun, with thought experiments between the chapters, a final chapter of scenarios to analyze using the 12 steps, and haiku or other verse at the start of each chapter. I found it a pleasant change from the overly heavy style of most substantive business books, and it was an easy read cover-to-cover that did justice to its excellent content.

I heartily recommend the book. Go check it out!

– Stever

(1) Being a professional, of course, I never, ever lose sight of my own goals. *grin*

Make Your own Luck – a great guide for decis…

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