On June 1st, we had the pleasure of hosting world-renowned poker champion and decision strategist Annie Duke at our CEO Experience Series event in Santa Barbara. Instead of our typical 45-minute interview followed by Q&A, this one went 90 minutes. The conversation was too rich. Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:

  • Creating a culture where employees truly feel comfortable taking risks requires a systemic normalization of dissent. Leading companies say they want employees to take risks and are prepared to positively reinforce failure after smart risks were taken.  The issue is that this approach by itself will limit the potential of the occurrences of risk/failure for the greater growth projection of the business. If a company does more week-to-week, back-end work (whether leadership chats, role playing) demonstrating that dissent is a mainstream part of the company, then that will lead to more risks being taken overall.
  • Create opportunities to get feedback on a real-life decision but make sure the feedback is objective. The tendency is to want to describe a challenging situation, share the outcome and then ask for feedback about whether the decision was the right one or not. Annie calls this “infection bias”. If we truly want to learn about different approaches to decision making, describe the challenge, provide the data and thought process leading up to making the decision and ask for feedback before you share the outcome.
  • When interviewing candidates for a job, it’s useful to ask questions that are extremely tough and vague by design. This creates an uncertain environment and will help identify those that show grace under pressure versus those that feel cornered and react in a way that shows discomfort with uncertainty.

If you haven’t checked out this non-profit that Annie founded, here’s the link:   www.howidecide.org/.

Lastly, here are links to three books that came highly recommended by Annie:

Kit Cooper has spent much of his career founding and running two successful business services companies, both of which relied on highly adaptive sales organizations selling multi-million deals to Fortune 1000 companies. As Managing Director for Taylor Winfield, Kit works with private-equity and high growth companies to build enterprise value through world-class management teams.