Is Risk Essential?

Let’s start with the obvious. Can you predict your career path as clearly as your parent’s generation? How about how long your personal computer will be relevant before it becomes outdated? Guarantee that you or any of your family members won’t be involved in a crime in the next twelve months? Is it better to buy or rent your home? Will the performance of your trusted stock be as expected or do you need to look at the next big thing, say like biotech?

We live in time of shifting contexts. There is no "right" answer because it largely depends on your relative time and circumstance position. It is a time to embrace risk as something to be managed, or risk becoming a victim to it.

From banking to deciding whether or not it makes sense to purchase a hybrid car, risk is simply something that can’t be avoided. Why? Because today there are more variables that are less predictable simply by having more empowered people directly participating in the global economy. That is not about to change back to simpler times anytime soon.

We can wax philosophical about "the greatest risk is not taking one", etc. but the writing on the wall is even more profound than that. Risk has now come full circle from something to manage at a basic survival mode to requiring sophisticated tools to predict the next boom or catastrophe so we can take surefooted steps forward. We can leave natural disasters or terrorism up to the notion of luck, but as we all know that is highly unwise in times of infinite measurability.

Besides, luck is a matter of perspective.

Risk however is real and also lucrative if managed in your favor. In times of constant change managing risk well may just be the critical defining factor for success.

Purpose Driven Kaizen?

There is an old Chinese proverb that says:

You can’t leap a chasm in 2 bounds.

Incremental improvement and breakthrough innovation have always been arch enemies. Yet without the mechanism for sustenance even the best ideas die premature deaths.

The solution isn’t as simple as something I could write in just a blog entry, but perhaps a productive way to think of it is from both points of view simultaneously. Whaaa? Huh? OK, ok, hear me out…

No one is going to innovate anything of significance by myopia on the process (continuous improvement or Kaizen). At the same time, having a brilliant solution is inconsequential and difficult to duplicate in the face of open competition. In fact, I remember a great saying that goes:

Those who are NOT great demand consistent greatness.
Those who ARE great know that it is impossible to deliver.

This duality is the tension that breeds change. The way to harness it is with focus. I propose that continuous and prosperous innovation is simply purpose driven. Meaning that, both kaizen and breakthroughs are focused on delivering an unattainable ideal.

Let’s take Apple as an example. They consistently come out with new "WOWs" because their core purpose is simply a refusal to be lame. That is an unattainable ideal. How do you measure "lame"? You can’t, it’s relative to time and circumstance. But because it is you can keep both the big ideas and the small improvements going at the same time.

So what’s your unattainable ideal? Find it and you will also find your purpose driven kaizen.

© 2006 GROW |