Monday Musings 41

Image for Yaksha Prashna Monday Musings 38, 39, 40, 41

Last episode was the story of Yaksha Prashnam from Mahabharatham. The story is not complete yet. Let us understand an important learning from this story before developing the story further.
When Nakul was overjoyed spotting the pristine lake his mind was concentrating only in getting his needs satisfied ie quenching his thirst and carrying water to his brothers. Though he heard the warning from the asariri (incognito voice) not to touch the water without answering the questions, He ACCEPTED the risk by ignoring the warning. His mind was focused only on the BENEFIT that he did not think about the RISK.
We encounter many THREATS in our daily life and THREATS generally do not give a warning before striking. We must anticipate THREATS. Fortunately, Nakul had the forewarning. He should have carefully assessed the PERCEIVED THREAT based on the PROBABILITY of occurrence and possible IMPACT if it occurs. Both are high in this instance because there was a warning message and the message warned about the possibility of death if the warning was not heeded to. This gets more pronounced because Nakul was in VULNERABLE position, he was unarmed to engage in any fight.
Based on higher PROBABILITY of occurrence and possible high IMPACT the RISK LEVEL of getting into the lake and drinking water from the lake was HIGH.  Nakul should have thought about the RISK before getting into the lake.  I am not saying that he should not have ventured into the lake and rather should have returned empty handed. We must take RISKS to move forward. We cannot take any new initiative if we are averse to every possible RISK.  What must be done then? That is the science of RISK MANAGEMENT ie Understanding the RISKs and taking appropriate action to manage the RISKs when they occur.
Let us look at it from Sahadev’s perspective. Sahadev was also in similar VULNERABILITY, Unarmed. He also heard the asariri. It mush have been even more certain for Sahadev as he saw the dead body of his brother Nakul on the banks of the lake. He should have understood that asariri was not a fake message. PROBABILITY is even HIGHER than what was inferred by Nakul as there is an evidence of prior occurrence. PROBABILITY increases if there is an evidence of prior occurrence.
The case with Arjun is even more interesting.  Sensing some danger, Arjun went with his weapons. Arjun was a reputed valiant warrior. He was ready to fight. RISK is lower in the case of Arjun as the VULNERABILITY was lower and he was prepared. But VULNERABILITY was not fully eliminated as the encounter was with a supernatural. Arjun did not ignore the RISK but challenged the RISK. He gave a valiant call to appear before him and fight with him.  Alas, it is difficult to predict the behavior of THREATs.  THREATs have an element of surprise and they might even change their strategy depending on your PREPAREDNESS. Arjun was prepared but he did not realize that his preparation was not of any use as he was fighting against an invisible supernatural being. Arjun assumed that he established all necessary CONTROLS (readiness to fight) and hence he was not VULNERABLE and decided to go ahead with seeking the BENEFIT. Alas, he did not realize that the CONTROLS were not enough for the THREAT in question as the threat actor was invisible and is a supernatural. Weapons are not enough.
You probably need different precautions and different actions. What Arjun could not achieve with his weapons, Yudhistra could achieve with his patience and intelligence.
We encounter unanticipated threats quite often in our business in our career. Threats occur in a manner not known and unanticipated like that of the supernatural yaksha in the lake. Traditional strategies are at times not enough to protect against the constantly evolving THREATS. You can never be complacent against THREATS however good your EXISTING CONTROLS could be. You must be constantly evaluating the THREATS and take appropriate contingent actions.
What are the possible contingent actions and how to decide which option would be the most appropriate?
Nakul and Sahadev did not take any mitigation action. They either did not realize the RISK or realized the RISK but decided to ACCEPT the Risk, ie go ahead with the plan without taking any mitigation action ie PURSUING BENEFIT UNMINDFUL OF THE PERCEIVED RISK WITHOUT TAKING ANY MITIGATING ACTION. You take this option if the mitigation is not possible or if the cost of mitigation outweighs the benefit but the plan cannot be avoided.
Arjun was AWARE of the RISK and took some mitigating action to REDUCE the RISK ie TO REDUCE EITHER THE PROBABILITY OR THE IMPACT by demonstrating his capabilities and preparedness. But he failed to assess the RISK properly. His mitigating actions did not REDUCE the RISK sufficiently and the RESIDUAL RISK was still higher than RISK TOLERANCE. He went ahead without realizing high RESIDUAL RISK and succumbed.
Only Yudhistra assessed the RISK properly. There are two other risk response possibilities though none of the Pandava brothers choose them. They could have AVOIDED the risk ie preferring to remain thirsty rather than facing the risk or they could have TRANSFERRED the risk to someone else in that forest by promising them something in return for getting water for all of them. Probably there was no one else around them at that time!
Thus, the Risk Response options are
  • Accepting the Risk
  • Reducing the Risk
  • Transferring the Risk
  • Avoiding the Risk
Whatever may be the Risk Response
  • Be aware of the risks
  • Assess your risks
  • Take appropriate response as it would befit the risk
‘Risk Taking’ is an essential trait for a Leader. This does not mean a leader has to be unmindful of all the risks. Means ready to take necessary risks after assessing and taking appropriate mitigating actions.
Pertinent questions from Yaksha and competent answers from Yudhistrar in the next episode.

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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