Marko Anastasov wrote this on November 13, 2015

Framing Risk

Risk has a bad reputation. In both everyday and business context, when we say that something is “risky”, we usually mean “dangerous”, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing that”, “you don’t know what you’re doing”, and so on. I’d like to reset that thinking in myself.

In fact, “a risky business move” is more of an oxymoron. A company puts its resources, means of production and employees' time and effort into use today for an expected return in the future. The future is unknown and unpredictable by definition. Therefore, risk is the basis of all economic activity. It’s just that we tend to forget that. But why?

Entrepreneurs out there hiring their first employee right now are, through that action, taking a risk. They don’t know what the outcome is going to be. Hiring that person might turn out to be a bad choice for all sorts of reasons, which is ultimately relatively easy to detect and fix. But the potential upside is much larger than the downside: together, the team may do things that are much larger than the sum of their individual efforts, and the hiring decision may be the moment a successful company is born. Entrepreneurs know this, as much as they know that taking that “risk” is the only way to move towards the goal they are trying to reach. No “risk”, no fulfillment.

We hear so often that big companies are “risk-averse”. This is exactly why a lot of them die. There is a quote that’s been passed around recently stating that “in 10 years, 40% of Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist.” Probably as much it is clear to an entrepreneur that making change (also known as “disruption” and “taking risk”) is necessary for success, to the people in a big company it is not. An entrepreneur’s antennae are tuned directly to signals of environment, while the people in an enterprise may not realize that the bigger the organization, the thicker are the layers of isolation from the outside world and its constant changes.

So I’d say the next time you find yourself pondering doing something risky, go ahead. Just make sure you’re picking the good kind of risk and prefer the action with a much bigger upside than downside.

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About Marko Anastasov

Rendered Text co-founder. Started with code, currently more focused on people and words. Foosball striker and entry-level cyclist.

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