You Need to Be Paranoid

By Noah Graff

I recently came across a hysterical YouTube video satirizing the screw-ups by BP management as they try to stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. In the video, a group of BP execs are sitting in a boardroom and someone spills a cup of coffee on the table. The group panics and makes blunder after blunder trying to corral the coffee. They try things as ridiculous as pouring garbage on the table, throwing wads of hair, and sucking the coffee up with a drinking straw.

I stepped back and asked myself, why did the guy spill the coffee in the video? How does an “accident” like this happen? The spill happened because the guy in the video wasn’t paying attention, he was distracted, he was relaxed about the risk of spilling the coffee.

I think back to a ski trip I took 14 years ago in Colorado when I was 16. I met this middle aged guy on the trip, who had some of the greatest stories I’d ever heard about racing stunt cars, doing illicit drugs, and traveling to dangerous places around the world. These were his words of wisdom, “Noah, it’s ok to do dangerous, crazy stuff. The important thing is to stay paranoid while your doing the dangerous stuff.” His rational was that usually the people who get hurt are the people who relax and feel like they have nothing to worry about. You get away with something risky long enough and before long you forget that it’s a big deal—be it cheating on your wife, sub-prime mortgages or faulty engineering.

Toyota’s management skimped on quality control in recent years, BP didn’t follow accepted safety protocol, Wall Streeters believed they could get away with bad bets over and over again. If the guy in the video had been paranoid about spilling the coffee he probably wouldn’t have done it.

Question: Do you think that good BP management would have been able to stop the oil spill by now?

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3 thoughts on “You Need to Be Paranoid

  1. AvatarRoger

    I don’t believe the question should be can they stop the oil flow now ……but why wasn’t there a solution in place before the drilling , they must have known something like this could happen, and if they didn’t they are morons anyway.

  2. AvatarMike Mendola

    The initial spill was a tragic goof-up of monumental proportions, and clearly the fault of private industry. The response by the Obama administration to the emergency is worse. Why were offers of equipment and supplies by other countries not accepted for 2 months? The lawyers and politicians were more interested in assigning blame and getting BP to commit to financial relief than any practical solution to minimize damage.
    Just another example of what will come to be known as, “The Failed Obama Presidency.”

  3. AvatarBill Osterman

    When I was in school, ’56’-’68, there was never more than 1 principal at any school. Today, each grade has one, plus support staff, medical and psych. prof.’s, and on and on. The students fight to resist uniforms so they can express their ” Individuality “. Ya. They apply at Taco Bell and find out there is a UNIFORM THAT IS A MUST. The video shows BP’ers in a uniform. The larger problem is, Why are there so many people around this table ? Real life says if YOU can’t do the job, we will find someone who can. Here, like most places, instead, find more people to look for the person that can do the job. Admit that you can’t do it and get out of the way for the person who can. Fast food stores do it every day; they don’t hire more managers, they hire doers. Makes industry look stupid.


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