Why risk is a pathway to opportunity

| October 7, 2021

Is risk an uncomfortable topic for you?  It is for most, which is understandable, as there are responsibilities associated to risk and often significant consequences. Risk after all is defined as the “effect of uncertainty on objectives” and risk management as the “coordinated activities to direct and control an organisation with regard to risk”.

Threats can be natural (e.g. storms, fires, earthquakes) or human-created (e.g. bullying, violence, cyber-attacks) and have the potential to cause damage or danger. When you are engaging in risk management, one of your objectives is to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a threat (accidentally or intentionally). But this one-eyed approach to risk is often driven by fear, and people don’t tend to see the pathway to opportunity and innovation.

Learn from our past

Whenever we encounter a threat, regardless of its source (natural or human-made), we adapt and get creative in the ways we look to reduce the effect of the threat and protect things we deem as valuable.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

  • Shelter, what we now view as a home, came from our need to protect ourselves from the risk of natural elements of weather and predators. We have been building homes for centuries and have introduced building standards to withstand defined types of threats, relating to the elements, like weather, proximity to the ocean, national parks, flood lines and so on. As a result, there has been improved designs, materials, skills and so forth to provide us with safety, comfort and for some, luxury.
  • The ‘moon landing’, a pivotal moment in our history, with the risk and potential consequences of not being first to the moon. The fear that an adversary of the United States of America could get to the moon first and exploit the advantage this feat offered. The outcome of achieving the moon landing saw advancements in areas like technology, aerospace, and human conditioning and transformed how we see our world and beyond.

Risk centres around people

These two examples provide insight into some advancements we have made in just decades. Where risk has motivated us to act and through doing so, we have made significant advancements.

But there are two important considerations to note here.

  • It is normally when potential or actual threats intersect with people, either directly or indirectly, that we become motivated to understand and learn how to manage the risk.
  • The achievements in managing risk and making advancements are a result of people working together.

For the most part, people tend to be reactive towards risk and are only motivated by consequences or fear. And fear itself is exploitable and introduces risk.

But risk is not something you need to fear; you just need to understand it, even though it can be uncomfortable to do so. Which is why the quote by Joseph Campbell comes to mind, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Opportunity within a pandemic

Look at where we are today, a world where we are discovering risks associated to the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative effects that continue to challenge us. But within the pandemic, could there be a pathway to opportunity for your organisation?

To embrace opportunity requires the effort of people because risk starts and end with people. People are fundamental in bringing their knowledge, skills, and passion to support and tackle the challenges faced in our continuously evolving risk landscape. Only by focusing on your organisational risk with, through and by your people, are you going to truly solve your risk exposure and drive transformational change in the pandemic world.

This means you need to invest the time and effort to understand if the systems and technologies that you have implemented to manage your risk during and post COVID are impeding or enabling your most valued and effective resource.

Here lies your opportunity to “rethink” your pathway forward and how you care for your people.

In a year or a decade from now, when you reflect on the effects of COVID, is this the crossroad where you continue to be reactive in your risk management approach? Or are you ready for a new perspective on risk, to find the reward and opportunity from the right type of effort?

As many businesses explore the possibility of moving back to the office, perhaps this is an opportunity to reflect on which pathway will you take?

What does the ‘new normal’ look like for your business?

Post a comment on First 5000 – Have your Say on LinkedIn today or email editor@first5000.com.au with your story.