Juxtaposition in Kyiv

Last week I was in Kyiv, Ukraine having an early dinner with friends in a restaurant on Khreschatyk, the equivalent road to Regent Street in London or 5th Avenue in New York. The thing that made this experience unusual, apart from distinctly mediocre sushi, was that 6 foot from the front Window was one of the barricades of tyres, probably 10 foot high that formed part of the Maidan defences.

The road itself is now just tarmac as all the cobblestones have long since been pulled from the road and piled up neatly in readiness should the need to defend the uprising return. Look left and it is ‘business as usual’, look right and it looks like a war zone that someone’s mother has told them to tidy. They also seemed to have missed tidying a few Molotov cocktails too, that looked like they had been ‘stood up by their Prom date’.

We live our lives pretending that life is predictable. We make plans despite the fact we do not know whether there is a piano about to fall off a building onto our heads. Acknowledging these parallel universes is hard, but it is interesting when there is such a poignant reminder right in front of the window.

We were discussing opportunities in outsourcing and other businesses in Ukraine. My friends talked as if the unthinkable really was, well, unthinkable. Yet every now and then, you could tell that a suppressed part of their brain was whispering ‘What if….?’ As someone who had a major health scare a few years ago, that took months to get an all clear resolution, I can identify with that state of mind. Life is uncertain. In fact only death is certain, but that’s a little more philosophical than I want to get right now.

We can never wait for everything to be stable before making a business decision, in fact any decision. We always make decisions on the basis of incomplete information, whether we realize it or not. The entrepreneurial state of mind means that we recognize the information is incomplete and but we still need to make a decision. You will always deal with uncertainty but sometimes we kid ourselves that we think we know what that uncertainty is. Ultimately, life is a best guess combined with a calculated risk.

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