Use Risk As a Threshold for Bold Moves

By Dawna Jones

Consider using risk as an opportunity to make a radical leap of trust. Companies often wait for a crisis before changing, yet doing so narrows options and ultimately pushes the company to panic rather than to come up with a creative solution. Although a crisis can be the impetus for making a radical transformation, you don’t have to wait for a crisis before you make a bold move.

What is the risk of not acting? Answering that question puts things in perspective.

Two conditions must be in place for you to take full advantage of using risk to innovate:

  • You know that what you’ve relied on before isn’t working, and you recognize that persistently relying on what doesn’t work puts you and others under enormous pressure.

  • You can focus on what you want to achieve in the future and have the courage to pursue it.

Risk can be a wonderful tool for innovation and change. To work with risk as an accelerator for innovation, do the following:

  • Nail down your higher purpose as a company. The higher purpose is inspirational and should viscerally engage employees. (It alone won’t serve as the accelerator, but it is one of the pillars for stability when your company enters a period of change.)

  • With active participation from your employees, create a vision for the contribution the company aspires to make to society and the environment. A vision alone won’t help unless it is used as the basis for making decisions on direction and creative strategy.

    The Values Center assessment is one way for a company to identify what employees value and how close the company is to fulfilling aspirations. With an assessment, you’ll gain a baseline for where you are now and can choose what to change in order to close the gap between what is current reality and what is desired.

    Use an assessment to help you understand why potential productivity is being wasted in competitive turf wars or on activities that really waste the value of the talent you’re employing.

  • Act on insights. Listen to the employee who comes up with an off-base suggestion that doesn’t fit anything you’ve ever done before. Ideas that merit further consideration should feel simultaneously risky and exciting and align with your company’s purpose and vision.

    Ideas that come out of left field get compromised or lost when crammed into logical-analytical thinking too soon. To avoid shooting down ideas that don’t match past practices, don’t use what you did in the past as the standard by which you evaluate the new idea’s merits. Instead, look ahead to the goal and place more emphasis on whether the idea feels right at a gut level.

    Apply logical thinking later, when you’re moving toward implementation.

  • Pay attention to dreams that offer insights. Some of the most inspired innovations have been adapted from ideas presented in dreams. Dreams can offer warnings or insights that help a company reinvent itself in a moment of crisis. To use dreams to solve problems and spawn ideas, do the following:

    • Before you drift off to sleep, state a need and follow this with a question you’re struggling to answer. For example, “How can I resolve this issue?” By actively planting the seed, you — and your intuition — will be clear on the problem. By asking the question, you activate deeper creative knowledge.

    • Pay attention to the details of the dream. You’ll find the answer symbolically conveyed. Make notes in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Even if you don’t get the answer in a dream, you’ve primed the pump for your intuition, so you may find that the answer comes later, as a blinding flash of insight when you least expect it!

    Dreams are richly symbolic, so don’t expect step-by-step instructions. When interpreting a dream, be prepared to do some adaptation. For example, water often refers to emotion, which could suggest that, if your dream has water in it, it’s a signal to pay attention to the emotions — yours or others. By the way, dreams are one dial on your intuition channel, although they’re not reliable or predictable.