Can society overcome risk aversion?

By: Bill Van Eron Thursday July 19, 2012 0 comments

By Bill Van Eron

Chief Innovation Strategist at Headwaters Marketing 

As an innovator and entrepreneur consultant, I would rather speak to how to enable innovation. Largely, entrepreneurs and innovators are wired to solve problems rather than being stopped by them.

In reading the July issue of Wired and an article on innovation icon Peter (The X Man) Diamandis, he speaks eloquently of the power of new technologies to create a new unprecedented time of abundance. When asked if anything could derail this, his answer: "Yes --the risk aversion we've developed as a society."

Lawyers have ubiquitous power. If someone is always to blame, if every time something goes wrong someone has to be punished, people quickly stop taking risks. But without risks, there can't be breakthroughs. Internet law attorney Jonathan Zittrain says we've gone from a society where if something wasn't prohibited, then it was legal, to a society where if something isn't explicitly permitted, it's illegal.

Diamandis also goes on to say: "The world is getting better at an extraordinary rate. The technologies available for solving problems are becoming more powerful and empowering more people. That's my source of optimism. That, and a realization I made early on that if there is a problem, I'm going to solve it. Once you see the world that way, it's a different place."

I enjoyed reading about his outstanding accomplishments despite all the risk aversion in a world that truly needs to accept innovation as a critical culture and a compass from which to thrive. I suspect most of us can relate to risk aversion personally -- in business, government and education -- it's everywhere. No wonder the sheer mention of the word "innovation" earns the attention of many who want to break free of the trappings of a risk-averse society and get more out of life.

"Innovation" is a positive affirmation for improvement. I am old enough to remember some clichés when they were fresh: "No one's ever done that before," or "Let's stick to what we did before." There has to be a million of them now.

Sure, I'd like to blame the lawyers for this major threat to our future, but I prefer to focus instead on Diamandis' bigger point that challenges us to see the world in a different way -- as problem solvers, risk takers, and as capable stewards to shape a better future.

I recall a validating comment while hosting a press tour for Japanese business people. Mr. Teichi Owaka, then chairman of Matshusita Corporation, and Terry Shimada, president of Panasonic, mentioned that Japan highly revered innovation and creativity. It had to be around 1994 as Japan was in its innovation heyday.

So my deduction is that innovation can happen regardless of support - just less so - but if an entire community, country, industry or company supports it (and the associated risk-taking), then an abundance of value usually follows.

I do see change happening in even the traditional lairs of risk aversion - government, education, large companies -- and yet the real edge of change is clearly in a new breed of social entrepreneurs, new technologies, our youth and an empowered Boomer generation.

I perceive unprecedented access to info and peer opinions -- once harnessed -- will obliterate those last stands of risk aversion.

Next... I can't wait for the 3D video game. How do you see things changing -- or not? What would your video character blast away?

Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

For Bill Van Eron, life & work are all about conscious observation and earning our needed humanity high bar. Whether Bill was an art director or lead designer in NYC, the most demanding marketing environment, or shaping a more relevant brand for soon to be major companies in Denver, or across his 25-year career in HP, as its champion for progressive enlightenment, diversity, inclusion and the highest relevance, which followed every project, Bill stays inspired to help others shape a better world, lives & work as connected to greater attention to our humanity, creativity and value-creation. All as vital to any organization's greater success. Bill now is championing the first and most conscious innovations that resolve challenges to our planets environment, as well as business and government realizing each’s greater purpose and brand value. Tired of conventional approaches and willful ignorance, Bill was recruited as one who can champion each solutions authentic relevance. Bill hopes Colorado and Fort Collins can open up and get in flow, as a community Bill & his wife only wish the best for as also enabled with a view all others benefit by, whether they see it initially or not.