Tell me if you know this one: it’s a four letter word… we are allowed to say it at work… but we treat it like all other four letter words… as a dirty thing.
It’s… R.I.S.K… risk.
On websites and in dictionaries, risk is listed in every conceivable way. If it were a dessert, it would have its own menu of variations.
We talk a lot about risk in business: managing it; mitigating it; reducing it; taking it; avoiding it… We talk about risk like it’s an unwanted visitor who always overstays a welcome.
There’s a description of risk management that originated in Australia and New Zealand, now being taken up in other countries, set out in the Australian & New Zealand Standard 4360:2004. It is a process of 5 steps:
• Establish the context
• Identify risks
• Analyse risks
• Evaluate risks
• Treat risks
It makes it sound like a disease.
So, taking a step back, how did we get here? How did risk become a bad word?
Risk-taking prompted explorers to this country. Built the first structure taller than one level. Introduced spice to the world. Prompted the original money-lenders to believe banking was a viable business. Created Apple Computer. Prompted you to try a new coffee place today.
Risk is not just the large world-changing things. It’s choosing that boldly striped tie, the purple handbag, having an open and gentle conversation, telling someone what you really think of their latest project.
You can’t get through a day without taking a risk. You can’t have an opinion, can’t take a stand, can’t put forth a plan without risk.
I believe we thrive on risk. We need risk. Risk is something to explore. Risk is where the opportunities lie. Risk is our wiggle room, the call for new ideas and a point for negotiation. Call it the unknown, call it creativity or call it judgment - risk propels us forward.
We can choose to not move when faced with risk. But really every decision, even to do nothing, is a risk. Every project has potential to backfire. Every step to stumble. Every word to be misconstrued. Every choice the wrong one.
We could - another four letter word - fail by not taking a risk as much as taking one.
I personally pledge to explore failure this year. I will be willing to:
• Try new ideas
• Be wrong
• Take a stand when the safe choice isn’t the right choice
Risk is going to be me saying “This is what I believe we should do” and negotiate from there.
Maybe if I aim to fail, I will succeed.