Institutionalising risk taking to grow business | Sunday Observer

Institutionalising risk taking to grow business

People and companies who are unwilling to take risks will become stagnant with no ability to innovate or change. Pic: Courtesy
People and companies who are unwilling to take risks will become stagnant with no ability to innovate or change. Pic: Courtesy

Risks are necessary to make changes happen in anything you do. In business, there will always be decisions with potential for gain or loss, with uncertainty built in.

While in theory there isn’t any point in taking risks that doesn’t pay off, there are hundreds of things that require risk taking to make them happen differently in different areas with different decisions for improved results. Innovation is a big one of those.

Innovation is when you look for new ways of doing things, building things or perhaps new ideas being realised as a product. This needs breaking new ground that no one has done before. There are always risks involved. People and companies who are unwilling to take risks will become stagnant with no ability to innovate or change.

In the eternally changing world we live in today, innovation is required to lead people towards growth. It enables change and opens opportunities that were impossible to see before the change occurred.

People fear making that initial decision thinking that it may be wrong. They need to evaluate and attempt to consider all possible options without ever making a decision.

There is always more information and it is easy to get stuck in information paralysis where you do nothing and merely continue to analyse the possibilities.


A leader needs to have confidence that an early decision can make things progress faster, even if that decision is wrong or needs to be changed later on.

The risks can still be minimised by having an option, alternative paths and a reasonable level of consideration, but the decision does need to be made and a leader must be confident of it to lead others towards that path as well.

It’s not realistic to have all the information to make a decision. To beat time and have the edge, make the decision when ‘enough’ information is available.

Comfort zones are everything from an individual’s daily routine to lifestyle, to work environment and habits or roles in life and job. All of the things that are repetitive and lasting become comfortable and only new things in life really make things change over time.

A decision made under risky circumstances can be sounder when the decision maker is circumspect and prudent. But, he or she has to know which risks to pursue and which to abandon or modify. In most work-related situations, probabilities are less precise and more subjective.

They’re coloured by a person’s past experience, organisational culture, and propensity for risk taking. It’s important to understand one’s risk taking patterns, one’s perceptions rooted in personal and professional history, and the degree to which cultural injunctions encourage or deter prudent risk taking.

To what degree do employees think your organisation supports prudent risk taking? Some companies routinely question each proposal - whether from marketing, production, or engineering - by asking, “has the issue of risk been addressed?”

Comfort zone

Some employees succeed every time leaders want success. But 100% success suggests that the employee doesn’t take any risks to grow the business, be creative or continually look to change for better returns.

Leaders want their team members to stick their neck out far enough to take some reasonable risks to grow. Willingness to take risks also means the willingness to step outside your comfort zone.

One who is too afraid to step outside their comfort zone is also too afraid to take the risks that are often needed as a leader. Playing safe takes you nowhere with the level of competition you encounter.

If you want to support risk taking, you will have to raise your tolerance threshold for when your staff or team members may miss the mark. Instead of blaming them, ask them what they learned from their ‘failure’ and make sure you communicate to them that you realise that falling short of expectations is inevitable from time-to-time.

When employees feel vulnerable, that’s likely to fuel their risk avoidance. Some companies institutionalise risk taking in their performance review process. Such actions assure that risk taking will be embedded in a company’s culture.

Organisations need, by word and deed, to encourage employees’ innovation, reward their creativity, and not punish occasional failure.