deathmatch: what-if vs. it-will

by smb on June 7, 2009

Every good manager has to think about the what-if. What if it doesn’t work? What if we’re not capable? what if it’s a bad idea? What if someone tries to rip us off? The analysis what-if begs the potential of it – might. Asking the what-if question is designed to calculate risk and inform action.

Except when the it-might becomes the it-will.

It’s never a good omen when managers turn the corner from anticipating potential obstacles to expecting disaster. What-if is the reasoned analysis of the possibility that something will go horribly wrong, it-will is a potentially unfounded paranoia that not only will something go wrong – but that those we have enlisted to help us will actively work against us. In that frame of mind, hard becomes harder, and difficult becomes impossible.

The it-will mindset breeds a kind of cynicism that prepares us to look at the potential worst outcomes of our dreams and ponder the underbelly of those we ask to help achieve them. When immersed deep in the it-will mindset, we spend our energy preventing phantom deception and mayhem, not creating.

37 signals posted this last week about simplicity – and it’s a great point.  But I also think that it could be an illustration of a business approach that strives to keep their eyes on the product, and not getting distracted by the potential it-will.


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