Dan P. Lovallo and Olivier Sibony

Loss aversion wouldn’t have such a large effect on decisions made in times of uncertainty if people viewed each gamble not in isolation but as one of many taken during their own lives or the life of an organization. But executives, like all of us, tend to evaluate every option as a change from a reference point – usually the status quo – not as one of many possibilities for gains and losses over time across the organization. From the latter perspective, it makes sense to take more risks. Most of the phenomena commonly grouped under the label of risk aversion actually reflect loss aversion, for if we integrated most gambles into a broader set, we would end up risk neutral for all but the largest risks. This truth has important implications for strategic decision making.

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