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A shaky economy breeds more careful risk-taking

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 150,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each Tuesday in our e-newsletter.

Last week we asked: What is your organization’s appetite for risk-taking?

  • We allow some controlled risk-taking but make few big bets, 52.31%
  • We restrict risk-taking to infrequent or low-risk situations, 23.66%
  • We encourage people to make big bets and take large risks if the rewards are appropriate, 12.38%
  • We are completely risk-averse, 11.65%

Slow, but steady: It seems there’s a mindset of slow and steady wins the race (or at least guarantees you’ll finish it). Very few folks are making big bets and taking large risks. Perhaps, in an environment of increased regulatory scrutiny and in a shaky economic environment, the appetite for risk is much lower. That said, there seems to be a reasonable amount of controlled risk-taking. Risk truly boils down to uncertainty. The less certainty you have of the outcome, the higher the risk. Do everything you can to reduce uncertainty — test, research, break big decisions into smaller ones, etc. — and hopefully, you can take more risks without taking bigger risks. In the end, those who take the biggest risks will be the game-changers and the flame-outs. Living between those extremes, you likely won’t set the world on fire, but you won’t burst into flames either.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of ThoughtLeaders.

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