The Role of Risk in Gaining Wisdom

To take a calculated risk, you must evaluate the satisfaction with the status quo vs. the potential for more significant outcomes.

Last month I shared thoughts on gaining wisdom in your business career and life. Let’s expand a bit on its importance for your personal and career growth.

People often mistake knowledge for wisdom. Just because they believe themselves to be smart and confident in their knowledge or education, they want their opinion accepted as fact. This is often the case in higher education institutions, corporations, and government these days. Their smug command of “scientific facts” demands your respect for authority and compliance. Balderdash! The recipe?

One cup of healthy skepticism (not disrespect); two cups of an open mind (maybe you missed something); and three cups of doing some homework (beyond the Internet or social media nonsense); add a dash of well-thought-out questions.

An important ingredient, five cups of listening to the responses you receive. Turn on the oven to 500° and bake your response. Set aside and let it cool. Just because someone thinks they know more than the average person doesn’t mean they are prepared to take the leadership reins.

Good thing our greatest generation of entrepreneurs that changed our world did not abide by these beliefs. They questioned conventional thinking and authority and charted a different path.

The powers-to-be in control did not appreciate this non-conformity since it challenged their accepted ideas and their power/influence. We often hear, “Many experts agree that …” Wake up when you hear that statement and drink a warm cup of healthy skepticism.

Gaining true wisdom is about challenging conventional knowledge to try innovative ideas. Find your own voice, take a calculated risk and persevere against the headwinds of change. What does that mean from a career perspective? Does it sound like career suicide? Depends on if you want to lead or follow. Leaders understand one word … RISK.

This is the one factor that limits most people in business growth. Most people are “risk adverse,” for many valid reasons. Risk is a limiter for gaining wisdom. How do you successfully manage or accept risk?

To take a calculated risk, you must evaluate the satisfaction with the status quo vs. the potential for more significant outcomes. This takes homework, backbone, intelligence, dialogue and hopefully some mentors. Technology trends in our security industry are evolving at a neck breaking speed — some good, some not so much. This is where homework and vision are critical. Here is an example for clarification.

In 1999, I was recruited to head up a GPS startup for mobile applications. In that journey, I engaged an engineering company to design and manufacture the prototype. The CEO showed me a prototype they had built for a different product, an IP-based image capture, processor and web server camera (IQeye).

It captured my desire to start a technology development/integrator company to develop an application solution for the security industry. The dawn of the IP video industry. The rest is history.

Networks and the Internet were in a growth mode and had stable protocols and rules to govern data acquisition transport and storage. The security industry was not as engaged in this back then. The standardization and significant advantages of delivering video on demand supported my calculated risk to move forward.

My homework suggested this would be a trend, although risky, and had exciting potential for the IT community. It worked out well and enabled my company to grow and enhanced my career to teach others what I knew about emerging technologies. The point?

Wisdom is taught by taking calculated risks. We had wins and we had failures. We were stretched financially, gained an entirely new customer set (IT) and learned valuable lessons. This resulted in adding volumes to my wisdom library, which are the biggest wins in business and life. Here are some pointers for future and current security industry leaders.

  1. Change is both scary and an opportunity. Embrace change intelligently.
  2. Standing still and waiting is a bad growth strategy. If you wait, you will be a follower and not an innovation leader.
  3. Build a “skunk works” internal team of your most innovative talent. Conventional product evaluation teams can get stuck in their thinking and laborious processes. Not knocking them; they simply “play it safe” not to make a mistake. As a recovering engineer, I like processes. I especially like continual improvement and updates to processes.
  4. Build a “pilot program” mentality to reduce adopting emerging technology risks while gaining valuable feedback from your most innovative vertical market customers.

These steps helped me, and our clients gain competitive early advantages and profits to adopt emerging technologies with less risk. The security industry is historically risk adverse, perhaps from past failures. Let these be lessons and not barriers to where your company can go.

I am happy to share thoughts for those who wish to take this journey toward wisdom, without some of the self-inflicted pains!

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About the Author


Paul C. Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is Security Sales & Integration’s “Business Fitness” columnist. A principal of Matterhorn Consulting, he has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience including UL central station operations, risk-vulnerability assessments, strategic security program design and management of industry convergence challenges. Boucherle has successfully guided top-tier companies in achieving enhanced ROI resulting from improved sales and operational management techniques. He is a charismatic speaker and educator on a wide range of critical topics relating to the security industry of today and an accomplished corporate strategist and marketer whose vision and expertise in business performance have driven notable enterprise growth in the security industry sector.

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