Women and men are taking more calculated risks following the battering the UK took in the last recession, according to Dr Lynda Shaw

If risk is the potential of losing something of value, weighed against the potential to gain something of value then we make those sorts of decisions all the time whether it be to sell a million pounds of shares, or crossing the road but most of us have personalities that can be categorised as risk avoiders or risk takers in business.

There are in addition gender biases in risk-taking although we have to be mindful of stereotypes as after all, we are not just products of chemicals and anatomy; age, culture and environmental factors also come into play.  That said, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is larger in women and regulates emotional responses.  The amygdala is larger in men and is pivotal in emotions.  One could argue therefore, that women are more likely to control (PFC) risky behaviour (amygdala).

When weighing up risk men are more likely to be concerned with hitting objectives whilst women tend to be more concerned about the effect the risk will have on the people involved.  Male risk-taking tends to increase under stress, while female risk-taking tends to decrease under stress.   It could be argued that in a stressful business situation, men and women working together would make better risk-taking decisions than either gender alone.

Generally during a recession, we are more likely to lack confidence and so become more risk averse but now as the economy is growing Shaw believes we need to approach risk with calculated confidence. “This means, therefore, that broad areas of the brain are involved with the whole process of calculated risk-taking, leading to creative thinking, problem-solving and decision-making.

Calculated risk should not be considered reckless. Risks to an international enterprise may be concerned with answering to their shareholders whilst a small start-up may have risks associated with taking their first office space.

With any decision, you’ll always have an element of risk and it demands confidence and belief in yourself. Sometimes the risk won’t go our way so it becomes something to learn from.  There may also be risks which were not accounted for so always be aware of a possible change in direction.”

Risk Taking Tips

Show confidence

Don’t be a satisfied follower.  Have the confidence to take charge, to think on your feet and to solve problems effectively.  Don’t overanalyse as you can talk yourself out of anything. Follow your instincts and be bold. Think carefully about risky decisions but do not procrastinate once you have made your decision.

Don’t think you know it all

It is best to explore what risks work and what needs more planning to optimise the success level. Don’t think you have all the answers.  Ask the experts and then make your own decisions.   

Learn from risks

Lessons which are learnt when taking risks within the business may lead you on an important new path. Learning from mistakes is an opportunity for growth.

Acknowledge multiple opportunities

Be focused on what you want to achieve from taking risks. If you zoom in on it too much you may miss opportunities.  Zoom out and the opportunities will come into clearer view.

Review the outcome of the situation

After the decision has been implemented and all risk has been mitigated, evaluate the success of the outcome and how the risk-taking has affected the business.

Dr Lynda Shaw is a change specialist, regular professional speaker, chartered psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist and author. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and Fellow and ... (Read More)

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