Friday, December 4, 2009

Do Pessimists Make Good Insurance Company CEOs?

Given that the primary business of insurance companies has been on dwelling on what’s the worst that could happen, does this make pessimist prime candidates for insurance company CEOs?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe that bloke named Murphy who they named Murphy’s Law should have started his own insurance company, who knows, he could have made a bundle – or what about Friedrich Nietzsche? Just a few historically famous “pessimists” who would have made top notch CEOs for today’s insurance companies. A will to power ones investment portfolio? Or is it just a routine risk management as usual?

After reading Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, a pet theory of mine has been renewed once again. A theory pertaining to why people with a naturally pessimistic disposition are better suited to be insurance company CEOs compared to their cheery, chirpy counterparts – especially ones that practice unnecessary discrimination when it suits them while maintaining a happy disposition. Despite the howls of protest of those cheery CEOs that ran their company to the ground during the Bush Administration over the accuracy of Barbara Ehrenreich’s pet theories on why Wall Street buckled only proves Ehrenreich’s insights on this contentious issue to be self-evident. Even though recent findings in cultural anthropology and archeology had always tried to tell us that too much positive thinking – especially when combined with leaving things to chance – could be humanity’s undoing.

Humanity’s earliest ancestors manage to survive through a series of supposedly insurmountable challenges like climactic extremes, super-volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that would make those catastrophic tragedies that happened within our living memory seem tame in comparison. Thanks to humanity’s intelligence and wit – largely driven by constantly worrying about the worst that’s yet to come. In other words - pessimism. Could it be that Natural Selection is Mother Nature’s very own risk assessment strategy? If humanity manages to survive through the worst aspects of climate change that is yet to come, it is safe to bet that it is because we finally took action on the most pessimistic ramblings of Al Gore over the dangers of climate change.

Unfortunately, corporate America has a habit of firing overtly cautious employees with pessimistic disposition. The very same people who could have warned the impending subprime mortgage crisis that can trace its roots back in 2006. The Wall Street overlords have no use for such folks, favoring instead to “yes men” too spineless to point out to their very own mistakes and shortcomings. Sadder still, this corporate oversight grew in popularity during the time when Ronald Reagan ruled the Free World where Wall Street amassed huge profits during the “Decade of Greed” of the 1980s.

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich really did point out the culture of a “happiness delusion” that undermined the true potential of corporate America. An overtly positive thinking without a safety net, or worse still – using the ideology of happiness delusion as a safety net, really did almost destroy America. During the 1980s, this happiness delusion became an industry in itself with books, office accessories, posters, etc. and it did become mandatory in the corporate world – especially Wall Street. I just hope that an overtly positive thinking won’t be used as a fairy-dust against failure anymore. Folks that worry so much in working out solutions in making good out of worst situations now need the much-deserved commendation they were once ignored. Maybe somebody should hire Barbara Ehrenreich as a risk assessor.

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