risk and reward

Does everyone think in terms of risk and reward. It seems like most people that I have talked to lately are greatly focused on risk and reward. I understand if a manager is looking at investing money in a product and needs to figure out if the cost of the software is worth the risk of not deploying it. I struggle with justification of software. Ok, I understand the need to get a word processor and presentation software package. Is it worth the $200 or so dollars to get Word and Powerpoint or is downloading StarOffice adequate? If I send a thank you note, can I send it via email or do I really need to get a card and send it through the US mail? At what point does being too cheap really get in the way of success? At what point does doing what is required cost you in lost opportunity or perception? Would going a little farther really make difference? I keep coming back to a story that I heard about Larry Bird the basketball player. To become truly great he would spend hours practicing one shot and one shot only. After weeks and weeks of making the same shot, he would move slightly to the left or right on the court and repeat the training.

Does the same apply to non-sports activities? Can I read documentation, play with software, give presentations, crate a prototype deployment and truly know enough about a product to be an expert? Do I need to do this multiple times to truly see it from different angles? What are my cost and risk for cutting corners? If I use StarOffice to create a document, what am I loosing? If I use a public domain database do I sacrifice functionality or features when compared to using a commercial version? (Ok, I know the answer to this one and can even explain it in gory detail).

I wish I knew how to analyze risk enough to make the informed decisions. One of my daughters friends is constantly analyzing risk and reward. She has been doing this since she was able to talk. “If I don’t make my bed, what will happen?” “If I don’t eat my peas, what are the consequences?” I’m constantly amazed by her rationalization that the peas are not worth the bowl full of ice cream. Not making her bed is not a fair trade off for an hour of television. My friends finally found the breaking point now that she wants a cell phone. It is amazing what she will compromise to get her phone back since it is her lifeline to her friends. I’ll stop here because I don’t want to get started on how old someone should be to have a phone with them.

Risk vs reward? I guess that this is what separates really good decision makers from really bad ones.