Diego Rodriguez and Ryan Jacoby have written an insightful piece on risk for one of my favorite magazines, Rotman Magazine, from Roger Martin’s Rotman School of Management, and we are running most of it on the Innovation & Design channel. They describe how designers approach risk very differently from the way business people approach risk. Different in a better way.
Here is the heart of their wonderful argument. Anyone involved in innovation and design needs to understand this:
Risk, to business people, is something to be avoided. It’s an assessment of the downside of taking an action. It’s bad. In B-School, you are taught to break down a problem (everything is a “problem”) into its parts, and solve them. Wrestle them to the ground.
Risk to a designer, is “a measure of the upside” of taking an action. It’s an opportunity. It’s good. In D-School, you see risks as options to be embraced, pondered, analyzed, and—above all—chosen. You like risk because it gives you options you can choose from.
Designers like risk because they learn from them. They learn from failure and mistakes.
And—this is really important here—designers like risk because their process actually mitigates risk. Let me repeat—the design process cuts risk. When you do design (or innovation—whatever you want to call it), you use ethnography, prototyping and story-telling to develop a product/service/experience. These processes actually reduce risk.
This is a fact that most CEOs simply do not get. It is far riskier to come up with a new technology in the labs, make it into a product and then throw it at consumers than it is to first start with your consumers to find out what they really need and want (the essence of design).
If you don’t get Rotman Magazine, you should. In fact, get all the back issues. This current issue on Risk is just brilliant.
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