The Lizard Brain

Everyone wants racing to improve, obviously, but the urgency is never there, and for most businesses, urgency is the catalyst to improve. Of course, when something becomes urgent - like the change Ontario racing is going through - it's oftentimes too late.

Seth Godin wrote about this the other day:
  •  ...... unless there's an urgent reason to make something better right now, most organizations naturally don't volunteer to improve. Operating systems, government programs, established non-profits, teachers with tenure, market leaders, businesses with long-standing customers--these organizations are all facing an uphill battle in creating a culture where there's an urgency to improve.
Many of racings issues are described as being "cultural". Change whipping? We've always whipped this way. Change lasix rules? Um, no, this is the way we do things. Betting exchanges? We've set up pari-mutuel and we've been doing it for 100 years. Open up vet records? Why would we do that, our industry has always been buyer beware. Lower takeout? My dad's dad who ran a horsemen group told me we lose money if takeout is lowered. We can't do it.

Changing something in racing - anything - adds risk. And in a business that is extremely risk tolerant at its core (people in the business buy a yearling for hundreds of thousands of dollars which may not be able to run or pace or trot), this is flummoxing. However, it probably stems from people not wanting to be responsible for failure. 
  • Risk brings fear, because that means someone is going to be held responsible, and so the lizard brain wants out.
Most people would say that if you are afraid of failure you should not be in horse racing. Don't buy a horse, don't train a horse and certainly don't bet a horse. But people in racing do that each day. At racing's highest levels however - when it comes to running the sport - the opposite thinking rules the roost. It's one of racings great mysteries, and one of its greatest failures.


Indulto said...

Does fear of tweeting count?

Eric Poteck said...

The industry has yet to outgrow or leave behind the monopoly culture. SARP allowed it to continue and fester. Perhaps with the ending of SARP the industry in Ontario will now evolve. Here's to hoping!


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