sitting beside your favorite Uncle. He is unwrapping your birthday present. You
feel a little nervous. You are at risk. You volunteer your most innovative
ideas at a meeting. They could be rejected. You are at risk. You are persisting
with an honest disagreement; willing to take ownership for the results. You
are, again, at risk.
Recognition of Prominent Emotions
Sound risk requires thorough
understanding of four concepts: potential loss, fear, dilemma, and potential
gain. Sound risk involves both analytical and emotional abilities.
will not impact risk-taking without impacting fear. Fear is both
under-acknowledged and mis-identified. Our more internal fears often hide
beneath the culture's "socially acceptable" fears. It may be acceptable, for
instance, to use "losing my job" or "not getting advancement" as a reason not
to risk when "looking bad" or "not adding value" might be more accurate.
And if we've somehow trained ourselves to think that fear is a sign of
weakness, we are denying not only our fears but our best opportunities as
Both fear and courage reside within our risk dilemmas, within
our 'should I or shouldn't' I decisions. These decisions involve the Diving
Board. Properly assessed, the Diving Board yields great information, including
an appraisal of the irreducible risk involved. But getting "stuck at the end of
the high dive" accentuates the obstacles. Questions and worries whirl through
our mind, defying assessment. Visions of worst consequence cloud the original
goal. Staying stuck on the diving board is a common form of self-induced
How to Assess
think that good risk takers are born with special abilities. But learning to
take sound risk is simply combining emotional understanding with methodical
analysis. The fact is, sound risk is hard work.
The first step is to
distill a recognizable goal from the "diving board." The assessment must
include the worst consequences and their survivability. Define the key
questions. Weigh both potential gains and losses. Conduct research on all
assumptions. Determine the irreducible risk.
Choose a Path
Thorough recognition of emotion and sound risk assessment lead
naturally to choice.
Your plan must include all actions, including
research, required to reach your goal. An optimum plan includes at least one
choice point, a time or event when your plan has unearthed enough clarifying
information for a final decision to go, to stop, or to proceed with a
contingency. The best Optimum Risk Plans include celebration details.
Build Support in
perceive that their culture has become risk-averse. Executive announcements and
initiatives won't be effective as long as people believe they experience a
judgmental and mistake-intolerant culture. Answers appear to be three-fold:
Give people the knowledge
and skills for sound risk taking.
Build support for sound risk
on a relatively local level, and,
Define sound risk locally
through specific agreed-upon guidelines and procedures.
Ownership Means Making It
getting yourself adequately equipped to recognize, assess, choose pathways and
build support for sound risk. It means being willing to win and being willing
to lose and knowing that neither makes you worthwhile or worthless. It does
mean being ethical and responsible, not reckless. And most of all it means
deciding yourself: will you have fears or will they have you?
Convert dilemmas to
Decide whether worst consequences are survivable.
Know the irreducible risk.
When possible, consult
people with experience.
Devise pilot plans when
Achieve closure on support.
Prepare for success.
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