September 23, 2009

Realistic Optimism and Enterprise Architecture

Optimism can be a key to success in your personal and professional life!

The Wall Street Journal reported in Nov. 2007 that optimism leads to action and that “if even half the time our actions work out well, our life is going to turn out for the better…if you are a pessimist, you are unlikely to even try,” says Dr. Phelps an NYU neuroscientist. Similarly, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania observes that “optimists tend to do better in life than their talents alone may suggest.”

So while optimism is often “derided as a na├»ve, soft-soap disposition that distorts the realities of life,” Duke University researchers found that optimists actually lead more productive and by some measures, successful lives. For example, they found that optimists “worked longer hours every week, expected to retire later in life, were less likely to smoke and, when they divorced, were more likely to remarry. They also saved more, had more of their wealth in liquid assets, invested more in individual stocks, and paid credit-card debt bills more frequently.”

At the same time, overly optimistic people behaved in a counter-productive or destructive fashion. “They overestimated their own likely lifespan by 20 years or more…they squandered, they postponed bill paying. Instead of taking the long view, they barely looked past tomorrow.”

Overall though, “the influence of optimism on human behavior is so pervasive that it must have survival value, researchers speculate, and may give us the ability to act in the face of uncertain odds.”

Optimism coupled with a healthy dose of realism is the best way to develop and maintain the organization’s enterprise architecture plans and governance. Optimism leads the organization to “march on” and take prudent action. At the same time, realism keeps the enterprise from making stupid mistakes. An EA that is grounded in “realistic optimism” provides for better, sounder IT investments. Those investments proactively meet business requirements, but are not reliant on bleeding-edge technologies that are overly risky, potentially harmful to mission execution, and wasteful of valuable corporate resources.


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