In Disrupt Yourself, she helps you understand how the frameworks of disruptive innovation can apply to your particular path, whether you are:
- a self-starter ready to make a disruptive pivot in your business
- a high-potential individual charting your career trajectory
- a manager looking to instill innovative thinking amongst your team
- a leader facing industry changes that make for an uncertain future
Nature favors risk takers
Starting something new means taking a risk. But in our society, the word ‘risk’ has assumed mostly negative connotations. When someone tells us ‘that’s risky’, most of us have a visceral, fearful reaction. But Mother Nature seems to have built a loophole into our sense of well-being, because embedded somewhere within the human genetic makeup is an inclination to take risks.
Of course, in order for evolution and natural selection to favor risk-taking as a behavior there has to be a benefit, and that benefit has to outweigh the outcome of doing nothing. Many examples from the animal kingdom support this hypothesis. According to research by Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin, who was trying to understand a continuum of risk-taking, fish willing to take risks were likely to mate better.
What if you aren’t a risk-taker by nature?
According to psychologists Tory Higgins and Heidi Grant Halvorson, people can be divided into two personality categories:
- Those whose motivation is promotion focused are comfortable taking chances, like to work quickly, dream big, and think creatively: they are natural risk-takers, focused on maximizing gain.
- In contrast, people who are prevention focused tend to concentrate on staying safe, working slowly and meticulously, worry what might go wrong if they aren’t careful enough, and focus on preserving what they have.
So for the risk averse who are trying to convince themselve to try something new, the trick is not to focus on what will be gained by venturing forth, but to instead focus on what might be lost by standing still.
Identify the right risks
As you gear yourself up to take risks, it’s also important to distinguish between competitive risk, and market risk.
Competitive: If a colleague comes to you, and says, ‘The opportunity for this product is huge and I’ve got the projections to prove it,’ it’s quite likely that a competing company or individual has scoped out the opportunity. There’s probably already a kingpin. It’s not you. You can be confident there will be customers for your product or service, but you have to assess whether you can compete and win. This is competitive risk.
Market: If instead your colleague says, ‘I don’t know if there’s a market, but I think there’s a need not being met,’ you are looking at market risk. You have no idea if there will be customers for your product or idea, so a forecast of what you might earn in the future is fiction. However, if you can find customers who want to hire your product, as the first mover you are favored to own the market.
Because our brains make a mountain out of a molehill of uncertainty, we tend to prefer competitive risk because it feels more secure. But the empirical evidence says that market risk is less risky than competitive risk.