Risky (learning) business

As the bus driver on the 94 was doing his Lewis Hamilton impersonation last night, my mind turned to the subject of risk, and how it connects to entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship. Having survived the journey home, I opened my inbox to find an e-mail newsletter from the Future Innovators team at NESTA; and the subject? You guessed it: risk.

Of particular interest is the article by Bill Lucas, entitled "Learning is a risky business" which has interesting things to say about mistakes, learning and encouraging a culture of risk-taking. The latter is something which the UK is often viewed as being deficient in as compared to, say, the US, where failure is embraced (even celebrated) by entrepreneurs in all fields. Tim Smit of the Eden Project is often quoted as saying you should have at least three mistakes on your CV (except his word is rather stronger than ‘mistake’) but he’s a rare example of a British entrepreneur being open about risk, failure and learning.

I liked Dr Lucas’ three-step risk-taking: Ready (appraise courses of action by instinct & analysis); Go (give it a go) and Steady (learn / embed the lessons)….which bears some similarity to the action learning cycle which powers the SSE programme and other practical learning methodologies. He also talks about how to allow safe risks to be taken (in an educational context) which concentrates on role-modelling, peer support and learning. It’s also about confidence; as one article on entrepreneurs puts it, they should have "Enough self-confidence to take carefully calculated, moderate risks"

Googling ‘risk’ or ‘risk strategy’ will only take you into the frenzied world of near-professional board games, but there are some useful links and articles out there.

Risk is all: sample quote: "What risks can you not afford to take in your business? How will you ensure you actually increase the amount of risk you take?"

Risk in Entrepreneurship: "But even for the brave-of-heart, the reality of risk that comes with
that leap — when the last paycheck is left behind and life is reduced
to a single do-or-die mission — hits like ice water."

Low-risk entrepreneurship: "I do think that entrepreneurship is becoming exponentially easier over time alongside advances in technology."

Mindful Entrepreneur on Risk: "entrepreneurship should be part of everyone’s life in at least some way"

for Risk Assessment, you can see Business Link’s decent overview, or take the Risk Assessment Quiz!! (oh yes)

It’s an interesting topic to consider in the social sphere as well, given that (at times) there seems to be an inherent conflict at the heart of social enterprise….namely the quest for sustainability (aka less failure) alongside the need for more enterprise and innovation (aka more risk). A simplistic summary that might be, but one that could make for an interesting debate about how we measure "success" of the movement, and in creating a more inclusive and entrepreneurial UK.

Alternatively, if you want to think about risk on a bigger scale, here’s Stephen Petranek on 10 Ways the World Could End. Go careful….

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