A Critical Doer keeps risk and failure in context with opportunity and success
I saw an article this week on CNBC’s web page that told about a research effort on millennials. Generational leadership challenges are an interest of mine so I anxiously read through it…and didn’t find what I expected. The research showed that in areas such as work and investing, millennials aren’t very different from baby boomers.
For those critics that almost make a sport of bemoaning younger generations and gleefully prophesize about how they will ruin everything the elder generation has worked so hard to build, this research should make you feel better about the future…right? WRONG!
If you read into the research, it clearly supports an observation of mine that the millennial generation is overly risk averse when it comes to their careers. (Disclaimer: we’re talking about people so there are no absolutes when it comes to predictive behavior. Generational tendencies help explain the behavior of groups, not specific individuals.)
Forget the generational labels for a moment and think about this. In general, the younger you are the more tolerant to risk you should be for two reasons. The first is that time is on your side. The second is that in general there is less to lose as you’re getting established in life so there is less incentive for conservative tendencies. As we progress in life, our behaviors tend to be influenced from a perspective of safeguarding the accumulation of our life’s efforts; hence, less risk tolerant. Can you start to sense the problem when we have two generations with a significant age spread that view risk in the workplace roughly the same?
As a Critical Doer, you understand that smart risks are required to make significant leaps in products, services, policies, and ideas that are truly innovative and give us a decisive edge over competitors. Absent the willingness to take these kinds of risks, incremental improvement is the best we can hope for and in the long term it’s a losing hand because competitors will sense your hesitation as opportunity…and you will soon be working for them.
Going forward, it is imperative that my generation take the lead, as it is our responsibility to do, and mentor the millennial generation on the nuances of risk taking and risk management. This must be done in a collaborative nature and will not work if we are not willing to take risk along with our successors so that we are working toward a common future with equal “skin in the game.”
There will be a reckoning at some point both economically and politically if we don’t come together around the issue of smart risk taking. In a world that is experiencing an unprecedented rate of change, strategic no longer means slow. Let’s make it our business now to work together and build a culture that embraces smart risk taking and produces the type of innovation that will ensure the economic and political prosperity of our nation. It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!
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