Risk: Understanding Your Scope of Reach from Your Grasp.

Mans reach and grasp.We were not born as risk-takers but we can develop it through our own growing self-actualization, creativity, a pursuit for growth and enjoying that feeling of being stretched.

Well some of us do, but sadly most tend to become risk-avoiding because of the environment they are in or been associated with for long periods, where avoidance rubs off, it seeps into the soul.

Many enjoy being simply ‘passive’, avoiding anything that smacks of being ‘proactive’; it is safer to be ‘reactive’. Innovation and heaven can equally wait.

Putting it simply most people and organizations are just afraid to take risks and this fear takes over and drives their choices. Innovation is certainly something that suffers from this fear of risk. Organizations miss critical opportunities, individuals fail to speak out and argue for a given change or innovative idea. We can simply stop growing, to want to become something more, we take the easy option, we avoid risk.

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Innovation being served up with a growing angst, anxiety and Kiasu

fighting the clockTime, we are told, can be our best friend or equally our worst enemy. This week time showed its bad side to me, actually it might have been doing this for some weeks when I stop and think about it.

When you feel the pressures of time, you seem like you are “fighting the clock”, it just seems to heap more pressure on you and that need to break out, that spark of creativity, seems to have been buried under an avalanche of what keeps coming into you. The acceleration of what keeps landing on your desk, crying out to be read, answered or translated into something more.

Of course, most of us are that rational type and we tell ourselves most of this is self-imposed or is it? I think most of this is externally-imposed. I blame the advancement of our social tools and all the multitudes of opinions, thoughts, suggestions that are ‘spewing’ forth in streams and becoming so overwhelming you begin to go ‘stir’ crazy. I equally blame myself for getting so hooked.

Addressing the problem

This is not simply a time problem, it is deeper than this. It is actually tickling away at fear, it is giving a growing intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety and inner turmoil. I think I’ve been suffering this for some time. I’ve got FoMO thanks to all these social platforms I feel I need to connect into.

Each day is getting into a growing dangerous routine. I arrive into the office my early routine- check my emails, check twitter, check the blog, check facebook, it is eating into my time but I need it. Do I really? This is social anxiety with a big kicker. FoMo – that fear of missing out.

Then we have the staggering array of social networks constantly prompting us to check out our Klout status or your Kred score or the latest articles in our designated areas of interest. Then you go in search of the scoops of the day. You must feed the hungry beast, baying for your time.

Then the daily snippets, LinkedIn reminders, slideshare updates, headline notifications and then the drip of the dailies from paper.li capturing all the breaking stories you subscribed too, needed you felt for your work. Were they?

This is angst, an acute anxiety type, I am dreading where this is all going. So do we really need all these ‘social’ interactions, are they profitable investments or just simply satisfying events and quick fixes. No, we just want to all feel loved, special, in the loop and by giving something back into this, achieve a little respect. What are we really getting out of them? We reply, we contribute and we feel productive but are we, are we economically productive?

Now if this economic productivity is happening then great. That is defined as increasing the economic value or are social platforms just simply sucking the economic life out of us all?

It just dulls our creative process so we are getting more defocused aberrations

The reality is it is dulling our own creative processes. Is it spurring us to do more within our own work? Is it not undermining the precise kind of creative thinking for us to do our own creative work? It is blurring us, it is surely this constant ‘mass’ of contribution that chips away at making us less individually distinct, perhaps a new form of defocused aberration.  The higher the intensity of this social ‘interaction’ the more we get defocused, not actually more focused, I feel.

Then we come to Kiasu.

Anyone who has ever lived in Singapore will recognise this word. They even have a Mr. Kiasu. This really is a wonderful word for that “fear of missing out”. I think it applies to me more and more. I’ve caught the dreaded Kiasu fever.

Kiasu is a mental attitude, it is always looking for a sense of opportunity. This has its positive sides but it shows itself far more in its less attractive ones. It makes you feel if you don’t do something now it will be missed opportunity and where it adds a real pressure on you, is you have this fear that it will not be simply lost, it will go to someone else.

So  you experience with Kiasu a sense of lost opportunity and a growing disadvantage in relation to other people who are ‘working’ the social scene. This feeds compulsion that I equally have to do something now, it is my own sense of obligation kicking in as I owe it to myself and so I have to do it. This nicely links into a pressure to compete with others and I can’t lose out, can I?

Understanding Kiasu

Anna Wierzbicka wrote on Kiasu “Singapore English- a semantic and cultural perspective” that does an excellent job of describing much around Kiasu. Also David Chan Wah offered a essay some time back on “Kiasuism and the withering away of Singaporean creativity” with the wonderful maxim of “better grab first, later no more”.

In Singapore, Kiasu manifests itself in queue jumping or others barging in front of you, with perhaps, if you are lucky, only a simply “sorry lah”, it also is seen on the roads when no one likes to give way when lanes are merging. Kiasu is deeply ingrained into Singapore ‘s psyche, it has its good and bad points.

Growing up with Kiasu and its pressures often makes for ambitious business people; you become ‘big’ on working towards number one. The problem is always double edged, winning is never totally sweet as it carries the dread of ceasing to win, to get ahead, to ‘grab’ the opportunity.

There is even a A to Z of Kiasu I came across sometime back, although I’m not sure of its source on the sometimes amusing side of Kiasu in Singapore. I think we should compile one for our growing social anxieties of that FoMO.

Kiasu Philosophy

We are all increasingly in an information maze

We of course, do need to devote time to reaching out, reading, responding, to gathering in and absorbing but we do need our own plans of what amount of time we should spend on this and its ultimate purpose.

We need to certainly find time, to make available time as others offering their thinking and experiences does help us relate and often make sense of our world. It does stimulate our creative process but it is the ‘act’ of filtering but this can’t be imposed by a simple click of a delete button, it has to be more than this.

The pressure today is externally- imposed but we need to regain the upper hand by making this flow of social interactions coming to us, like a social tsunami, by taking back control to make it far more self-imposed. My anxieties, my FoMO needs redirecting into greater economic worth. Recognizing the symptoms is a start.

We all I feel, need to be more selective, more discerning to make our own insights more personally creative and not becoming even more elusive, growing reliant just on our ‘feeds’ being beamed in daily to dull our creative brain, by simply adding to them. We need to ‘carve’ out our own time to allow our ‘creative juices’ to flow more, I forgot to get this jab shot recently, where is that creative needle?

Becoming more selective- is that my answer?

So I need to come to grips with all this. I’m not sure if all this inflow is helping as much as it should be, it is not generating what I think it should be, certainly from the time I seemingly put into it. I need to break into this with a different perspective, it is sucking up far to much of my time.

But as Mr Kiasu says in Singapore English “I’ve got to get my money’s worth lah!” I’ve got to “everything also I want” and “everything must grab”  with “everything also want extra” but with more of “everything also sure win“. Work that out!

Crossing on a red light at the innovation intersection is really dangerous

How often have we left it too late, we are suddenly under pressure. We need to get to that critical meeting and we take risks, or we simply just left it too late, so we ‘run the red light’. If we get to this point we are not just the ones in danger but we more than often involve others in this stupidity, with potential serious consequences for all involved.

Care on intersections

Organizations so often leave their own futures to the last minute by failing to recognize or acknowledge they are running out of time, the situation they have been so use too for such a long time has suddenly changed. Well, for the vast majority, there was nothing “sudden” about it, they simply left it too late, ignoring all the warning signs and they decided to cross that “red light” as a last minute panic to catch up and be back in charge of their innovation destiny.

Often all organizations want to do is get back in control, revert to being comfortable, managing “as usual” but in the process have missed so much innovation opportunity in these panic moments because they did not plan for it. They just had a simple failure in not anticipating and thinking ahead, they “ran the amber”, not being alert to their surroundings and wanting to learn so as to adapt to changing conditions. Not being open and receptive to reacting and exploring, in different more flexible ways, they simply have no time to manage changing events, they are suddenly out of their comfort zone. They spin out of control and lose all traction.

Anticipation is something that always needs us being in “heighten awareness”

It doesn’t matter if it is driving a car, positioning ourselves to receive a pass on the football field we all need to anticipate, to be aware, to get into this ‘heighten awareness’, into the position to “receive”. Otherwise, we are often left as the suckers or the ones that deal with the after effects. So why is it, that organizations’ are so poor at developing heighten awareness?

As we appreciate “heightened awareness” is the idea of “having a higher appreciation, knowledge of, and consciousness of your connection between the physical plane, and the spiritual plane”. Or in organizations speak, knowing what is going on, both inside your organization and connecting it to the market place. Heightening our awareness for innovation needs consistent renewal and anticipation, being alert to changes taking place in and around in our environments.

It is in this “heighten awareness” we can bring together observation and listening skills from what we can gather from the market place. Often in this state we are discovering unmet needs, jobs-to-be-done that customers need solutions for. You can’t achieve this if you are not alert and clearly drawn into yourself, often in the mistaken belief you know. You know what it takes, how long it takes and you simply relax and suddenly you are caught out, as you cut corners and get caught out by others who have taken the time and invested in this “heightened awareness” plane and thought through their innovation journey.

These are the ones who don’t need to ‘run the red light’ as they allowed enough  time to be totally aware of their environment and  found innovation opportunity on each street corner, because they were alert to what was going on around them. They not only planned the journey, they took the time to enjoy and remind themselves of why they were travelling in the first place, not just to get to the next destination as quickly as possible but to get there through appreciating the how, where and what as their contribution to improving “things”. When we simply get caught up in our day-to-day lives, our world, our needs, we disconnect and then we again, simply, ‘run the red light’ as we need to suddenly, simply, just catch up but often it is just too late.

Developing Organizational Awareness

We do need to be so much more proactive. That is so easy to offer as a “catchy” solution as we can’t add a further one hour into our crowded days so easily but it is strange but whenever we are “proactive” we are stopping, reflecting and starting to structure our days far more consciously. We confront face-to-face that running out of time, that flirting with danger by “jumping the red lights.” We begin to systematically break down short and long-term organizational needs based more on what is going on all around us, so we can lessen the pressures, heighten the understanding and simply allow more tuning in to innovation opportunity that is on that “every corner”. This growing awareness begins to “process” the vast number of variables that must be analyzed before a true solution can be delivered because we have allowed some thinking and experimental time and worked out the journey a little bit more. Our minds actually unclutter as we sort our thinking and build in more proactive.

Being inquisitive, being curious, being aware

Innochat, (www.innochat.com) a weekly one-hour, highly fast paced “twitter chat” that goes on each week on Thursday, is a place for anyone who cares to contribute to the innovating topic of that week, and in this past particular week we discussed curiosity. In writing this post I made a further connection in my reflections from these exchanges. Let me explain, Drew Marshall, who facilitated this session, offered a “framing post” around curiosity and one point just struck such a cord for me here: Curiosity in Intersections – the way in which thinking between subjects leads to innovation.

In Drew’s blog piece he talks about multi-switching where we need to recognize patterns and discern what these mean. In Drew’s view it is the innovators ability to rapidly switch from one area of curiosity to another. Then he discusses multi-tasking as something potentially different. In multi-tasking an individual is moving quickly from one activity, or task within an activity, to another. Drew points out that the multi-tasker’s brain cannot fully focus when multitasking and therefore takes longer to complete tasks and they are predisposed to error.

We are caught today in a world of multi-tasking and as this seems to be quickening so perhaps we are more “predisposed” to increasing error. We are running the red light more often. We can’t stop the need to multi-task otherwise we just get left behind but we can stop and think more of the “what if?” to anticipate, to be more alert, to raise our heightened awareness. As we cross intersections we do need to be far more aware of the connections, not just of the dangers but of the emerging possibilities.

Organizations need to be alert to the dangers of multi-tasking for this risk of increased error.

We do need a “heightened awareness” of what innovation means and as more multi-tasking, more projects are being pushed on existing “everyday work” the risks of “running this red light” is increasing rapidly. If organizations continue to “push” even harder, then they run the danger of risking more than they expected. More crashes leading to more crisis, to then be managed and then missing out on the alternatives that time helps to allow.

We all certainly need to allow more time

Allowing little time to be aware, to be inquisitive, to spend time investigating, discovering and listening to your customers means you are ignoring the ‘amber’ warning light and suddenly and too late you cross the red light, where you are in real danger of a critical crash- a crash where people leave, because they can’t stand the ‘fear’ or ‘ignorance’ anymore, the fact that there is a new juggernaut crossing your intersection at the same time and you didn’t see it coming and it smashes into you and the result can be fatal.

We must recognize for innovation to thrive, you need to allow time, you need to be fully aware of where the possibilities might be and they are often on every corner. Just don’t cross the red light, rushing to get somewhere and you miss all the positive signals around you and also don’t allow enough time to sense the dangers that might be coming towards you from every direction.

Arrive safely by driving appropriately.

I saw a quote:“I think that growth and spiritual awareness come in slow increments. Sometimes you don’t know its happening”- Mariel Hemingway.

I would argue those that seek and plan, that allow appropriate time and be responsive to others needs, will find “awareness” can come not just in these “incremental moments” but in powerful innovative “waves” due to this heightened awareness. None of us should run the risk of crossing on a red light when it comes to thinking about innovation, always feeling under pressure, desperate, we must allow innovation to “arrive” through the space and time needed for allowing those illuminating moments to (ful)fill your innovation journey.