How to promote intelligent risk-taking? by Rose-Hélène Humeau

To win you have to risk loosing

who dares wins
to win you have to take risks

Many organizations end up by exercising caution to the point of not being sufficiently reactive to rapid environmental changes and losing the ability to catch opportunities. Looking for more analyzes, pushing systematic validations, procrastinating decisions – are examples of increased protection favored by an environment that, too often, punishes failure.

This purely precautionary approach is always inefficient, as we end up protecting ourselves from things that are unlikely to happen, and we overestimate the amount of protection we need. To increase performance organizations must enhance courage and initiatives to help teams to take risks.

The famous motto of the British SAS (Special Air Service) « who dares wins » applied to organizations and projects could push them in the right direction. But, as stated by Jean-Claude Killy « to win you have to risk losing ». Therefore, daring and carefulness are needed to encourage intelligent risk taking.

Méta Projets Management est partenaire de DantotsuPM
Méta Projets Management est partenaire de DantotsuPM


Taking the « who dares wins » attitude helps identifying opportunities. To promote this approach, we can proceed to a risk analysis with several perspectives:

jc-killy-to-win1. What if, it is me?
view your business or project as a bank account
view your business or project as a bank account

Ask your teams to view their business or project as a bank account. Every threat corresponds to a withdrawal or an additional charge, and each opportunity is a deposit or added income. Most people understand that, to preserve and enhance the overall value of their account, it is more effective to focus on increasing gains than to put all of their effort into reducing charges.

2. What if, it is a chance?

Review the list of threats and check, for each of them, if an opportunity is related to the event, using the following framework:

Thanks to [threat] A  [positive event] could happen Which brings the following value :

The objective is to find one or more opportunities that matter, putting effort on the right priorities.

give me the good news befor the not as good ones...
give me the good news before the bad ones…
3. Give me the good news before the bad ones!

Push the teams to start the process of risk identification with opportunities first. Prevent them from thinking about threats till one or more opportunities that matter, are listed in the risk register.

Whatever the chosen point of view, applying a new method will help the team to change the way of thinking and start to dare.


Encouraging individuals to take risks raises the question of how far we can go in risk-taking. Thresholds should be clearly defined and shared for limiting thoughtless actions. The limits are set by considering value creation and value protection for the organization and its stakeholders. A limit is the point at which « it is not worth the money. »

For opportunity, a limit is reached if the expected positive impact is not high enough compared to the potential threat when the opportunity is not implemented or when it has not the desired effect. These daring thresholds should be set at the start of projects, supported by management, regularly reviewed, communicated and shared with teams.

Taking into account these thresholds, the risk management process helps in developing effective response plans. Therefore, for every opportunity that matters, the team will assess the « risk of losing » to check if risk taking remains within acceptable limits.

Opportunity analysis Threat related to opportunity
Opportunity Expected positive results
within limits
Action plan to implement the opportunity Risk of losing Expected negative results Threshold

The proper attitude.

In the principle of « who dares wins » the focus is on taking action in order to win rather than hoping not to lose! This positive fighting attitude helps us to commit resources to developing and implementing effective risk responses.

Image courtesy of pakorn /
Image courtesy of pakorn /

The importance of taking measured risks allows a proactive attitude.

Proactive teams take control and make things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen. Being proactive is therefore moving forward: daring!

Thus, beyond processes, risk-taking is often a paradigm shift. This culture of reasonable risk-taking must be stimulated at the highest level of organizations to remove the fear of failure and allow teams to dare to win.

Campana & Schott est partenaire de DantotsuPM
Campana & Schott est partenaire de DantotsuPM







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