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A resistance to risk vs. creating forward motion - Why the tension? And why so difficult?

by Dave Newell

The tension between managing resistance to risk and creating forward motion can be difficult for several reasons:

1. Uncertainty: The future is inherently uncertain, and taking risks involves stepping into the unknown. On one hand, pushing forward with new initiatives and embracing change is necessary for progress and growth. On the other hand, managing resistance to risk involves a cautious approach to mitigate potential negative consequences and losses.

2. Fear of Failure: People, organizations, and even societies often fear failure and its consequences. This fear can lead to resistance against taking risks, as failure may result in setbacks, financial losses, damage to reputation, and personal or professional embarrassment.

3. Comfort Zones: Human beings tend to stay within their comfort zones, where they feel safe and familiar. Moving forward and taking risks require stepping out of these comfort zones, which can be psychologically challenging.

4. Conflicting Objectives: In many situations, there might be conflicting objectives between different stakeholders. Some may be more risk-averse, while others may be eager to move forward. Balancing these contrasting viewpoints can create tension and make decision-making complex.

5. Resource Constraints: Risk-taking often involves allocating resources (financial, human, or time) to new endeavors. The fear of these resources being wasted can make decision-makers hesitant to take risks and innovate.

6. Short-term vs. Long-term Outlook: Managing risk and creating forward motion require striking a balance between short-term gains and long-term goals. Immediate risks may be avoided to safeguard short-term stability, but this might hinder progress and innovation needed for long-term success.

7. Cultural Factors: Organizational and societal cultures can play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards risk. Risk-averse cultures might discourage innovation and reward conservative behavior, making it challenging to drive forward motion.

8. Leadership Styles: Leaders and decision-makers can have different risk tolerances and approaches to managing resistance. Aligning diverse perspectives and driving consensus can be tough, especially in larger organizations with multiple stakeholders.

9. Complex Ecosystem: In many contexts, forward motion requires navigating a complex ecosystem of stakeholders, regulations, markets, and technologies. The interplay of these factors can make risk management and progress more intricate.

Overcoming these challenges often requires effective leadership, a culture that encourages innovation and learning from failure, a willingness to embrace uncertainty, and a strategic approach to risk management. Striking the right balance between managing risk and creating forward motion is an ongoing and dynamic process that requires continuous adaptation and evolution.

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