The Fear of Risk-Taking

Halloween is all about scary things. Any day of the year, though, risk-taking can be scary. Preparing to take a risk can be like standing at the entrance of a haunted house – you can never be sure what negative consequences or unknown events might materialize. You might envision so many ghosts and goblins that you scare yourself – and your organization – away from ever taking the risk.

Danger skull sign against the evening sky

There are a number of principles to consider when you encounter risks that will help you take your first step into the “haunted house.” Some of these risk-taking principles include:

1)   Start with the positives. Ask yourself, “What good things could happen as a result of a successful risk action?” What will you be able to see/hear that is different from the present circumstance? Try writing this down as a vision statement.


2)   Free yourself from assumptions. What assumptions are you making about the pending risk and what evidence do you have to support those assumptions? If you find that the evidence does, in fact, support your beliefs about the risk, consider which parts of the assumptions are under your control and what you can do to minimize the risk.


3)   Think broadly. Analyze which people and which areas of the organization will be impacted directly or indirectly from the risks and come up with a few solutions to prevent or mitigate any negative consequences. Talk to people to get their ideas for how to address the risks.


4)   Start smaller. Can you address some of the risks by beginning with a smaller pilot, or implementing under more controlled circumstances? By doing so, you will be able to better manage the “scarier” outcomes by limiting the scale.


5)   Act intelligently. Risk-taking should never be a spontaneous reaction. Always ask yourself: is the potential gain worth the potential loss? Is the risk well considered? Have all implications and consequences been thought through? Can the level of risk be actively managed? Are the odds in your favor? Can you increase the probability of success or limit the consequences of negative outcomes?

Obviously, much more goes into planning and acting on risky endeavors. For now, in in the spirit of the season, try arming yourself with some of these principles so that you can consider a new venture that might feel risky. Be ready to face down those ghosts and gain the courage to embark on a new adventure. Happy Halloween!

Contributed by,

Rebecca Stern









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