Break your leg to grow

Article by , July 12, 2021

Years ago, The New York Times published an article about playgrounds where it exposed the findings of Dr Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. She identified six different risks kids overcome when playing. Those were heights, high speed, dangerous tools, harmful elements (like water or fire), wrestling, and wandering alone away from adult supervision.
Kids approach to risk as an incremental experience, not an exponential one. They start easy and take more risks while feeling more confident, but they always take the next step that would endanger themselves. The results of the research Dr Sandseter made, arose that those kids who had broken a bone before being nine, have fewer chances to be scared of heights when a teenager.
Following Nassim N. Taleb antifragility approach, children stress their system to improve their condition in the future. So, by taking small risks, they learn how to approach more dangerous situations in the future.
“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground.” Dr Ellen Sandseter
The topical “Leaving your comfort zone” mantra is a motivational way to tell you should assume some risks to improve your future condition.
So don’t try to manage risk, but to use it as a bounce factor in your business.
The stress that causes approaching risks keeps us aware of and connected with future performance. The same way, taking some risks in a business is an excellent way to keep it knowledgeable and proactive. Self-complacency starts with the absence of stress and uncertainty. Being contrarian, a business without fear is a business that does not take risks, innovate or invest in growth regularly. Indeed, without pressure, your a company gets too concerned about keeping the known present, instead of creating a better future.
So, what should I be doing right now?
As business leaders, we should purposely stress our organizations systematically in different ways, such as:
  • Launching new products or services.
  • Exploring new markets.
  • Letting low-end clients go.
  • Exchanging roles between workers.
  • Increasing our prices.
  • Investing in operations, to push sales and finances.
  • Firing a critical person that’s not performing or it’s harmful.
  • Learning new things every day.
  • Don’t try to lower stress but to keep it in the optimal zone.
All these can bring failure, for sure, but it will strengthen our organization for future disruptions because it would keep us aware of the costs.
“To work towards resilience each of us must understand and accept that our lives are filled with challenges that may be, at time difficult, but in the end help us to be stronger and more successful people.” Richard Citrin and Alan Weiss in The Resilience Advantage
One last word about children. When I was a kid, we used to play on the rocks in front of the sea. We’ve no adults around, and there were lots of dangers. Now, when I see all these parents climbing behind their children or holding their hands in every tricky step, I only see a false safety net, based on our fear that our kids get harmed the same way we were as kids. The problem is that, to be capable of climbing on rocks, you need to fall sometime. That’s how we learn and grow.
Are we taking enough risks to learn and grow in our organization? And in my life?
© Oriol López 2020
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