Watching a new TED talk this morning I was inspired by Sasha Dichter, who talks about the risk that is in our everyday lives and certainly in our business lives. How we respond to it or have decided to respond to it can impact how effectively we are able to create change in our environments.
Sasha Dichter is based in New York and is the Director of Business Development at Acumen Fund, whose mission is to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthrough ideas. Dichter speaks about Patient Capital, which is meant to serve as an in between movement to balance market-based approaches and the social impact of philanthropy. It hits home when he speaks about how Wall Street can operate with little to no impact or concern for social impact and philanthropy focuses on the social impact completely without a bridge to potential incremental revenue. The beauty of Patient Capital is that the investment in businesses will change how the poor will live. An example of Patient Capital is D.Light Design which gives 3 million people access to safe solar lighting replacing kerosene lamps, which are dirty, dangerous and expensive.
Dichter decided to take a 30 day pledge in which he announced on his blog that he would say “YES” to those who approached him and needed his help. I was moved by his words and the idea that after saying “NO” so many times in a day and a year, you are more likely to have “NO” as your initial response to things. This reminds me of a wonderful woman I met while delivering an off-site for a company I was working with, Kathy Burns. Burns, a business development coach at Burns Strategic Consulting, had recently taken an improv class which gave her the phrase “Yes, Let’s”, which was to be the response to anything another actor suggested on stage (close your eyes and imagine an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway).
So what does this have to do with Risk?
Well, saying “Yes” to things involves risk. In business we ask more questions, but often times we are still thinking “No”. Those of us that often sit in the “No” place in business are very risk adverse and are too afraid to make decisions because of the potential ramifications. One of my favorite business writers, Patrick Lencioni, writes in one of his many books that the inability to make a decision can stifle progress in an organization, and in fact if an executive were to make a bad decision and correct it, the organization would still learn and grow. Often times organizations get caught up in their inability to decide, or in just saying “NO”, and forgetting how to say yes.
Is your organization so risk averse that you have forgotten how to say “YES”. If so, maybe you should try a version of Dichter’s 30 day challenge and see what happens in your business.