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Willingness to take risks breeds innovation

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Are you a risk taker? If innovation is all about rethinking how to do something, then if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, you probably are both an innovator and a risk taker.

Taking risks may be as simple as doing a double test on an email marketing campaign to totally rebrand your company. Just as innovation means different things to different individuals so does risk taking.

One of the biggest arguments about risk taking is what if it fails? The risk then is never taken because of this fear of failure. (Note: Innovation and failure will be discussed in next week’s column.)

I was reminded about risk taking and innovation when I listened to some business leaders discuss K-16 education here in Northwest Indiana. For over the last two decades, I have been an advocate of K-12 schools embracing year round school to changing the current grade structure from one based on age to one based on competency to pay for performance for both teachers and administrators. These ideas have been viewed as extremely risky and have yet to be embraced by Northwest Indiana educators, parents and citizens.

Risk does require the ability to face failure, but more importantly it demands a process for execution and the capacity to be far more flexible. Being a risk taker goes beyond DNA and as a colleague of mine, Dan Waldschmidt, has described requires being Extreme in one’s behavior along with having the capacity of being Disciplined, Giving and staying human (with a Y). His EDGY criteria are a good foundation for those seeking to be risk takers or those who want to maintain their risk taking attitude.

Risk taking starts with having crystal clear clarity around the vision one has for his or her business or even himself or herself. So many businesses lack this clear vision and hence engage in the role of Captain Wing It who sprays his or her actions all over the place and then prays something will stick.

Another aspect of risk taking is developing a culture where risk taking is linked for WIIFM (What’s in it for me as the individual contributor) to WIIFU (What’s in it for us as the organization). As noted business expert Peter Drucker observed, “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

When the employees have the freedom to bring forth risk taking ideas, the result can be innovation. By not having this culture of risk taking, keeps the business and the individuals on this path as described by Tony Robbins noted motivational and inspiration speaker “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Innovation is the result of taking risks of not doing what you have always done. So maybe what you may wish to consider today and for the next 30 days, take a risk, do something that scares you and to cushion the potential big mistake do your research or as General Patton said “Take calculated risks. That is quite different than being rash.”

Next week’s column will discuss failure and innovation. On Oct. 29, because it so close to Halloween, the magic of innovation and creativity will be the main topic.

P.S. Shout Out: If you have a chimney or wood-burning stove and do not have retired chimney sweep as a husband, consider Four Seasons Chimney Sweeps in Lake County or Albert the Chimney Sweep in Valparaiso.



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