Risky business? It’s child’s play

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First day of a new school year.  I’ve waved the kids off with a kiss and, it must be said, a sigh of relief.  For the first time in nearly two months, I can work without squawks, squabbles and intermittent screams of “Muuuuuummmyyyyyyyy!!”.

Being the antithesis of a helicopter mum, I was heartened to read about a move by South Somerset district council to reintroduce playgrounds with “increased danger levels”. Research has confirmed that sterile, risk-free play areas stunt children’s development.  What happens if they aren’t challenged to identify, assess and react to risk? Studies show that they’re left vulnerable in the wider world and, I’d wager, will be none too hot in the workplace.

It’s not just physical risks, such as negotiating busy roads, that we need to handle in adulthood.  Risk is an unavoidable and inherent part of everyday life.  In the business world, taking calculated risks is often what makes organisations soar.  

The likes of Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver have always been fearless. They’ve launched themselves into projects that often seemed pretty bonkers to everyone else. I had the pleasure of eating at Jamie’s wildly successful Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall last month.  A restaurant run as a charity, that takes wayward teens off the streets and trains them to be world-class chefs?  An epic risk. All the more so in that he bankrolled the venture himself.

So too, Tim Smit – the brains behind the Eden Project, dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”.   Smit, a serial risk-taker as a child, dreamt up the truly batty idea of building the world’s largest greenhouse in a huge, disused clay pit.  This year, the Eden Project celebrated its 10th anniversary, having welcomed 12.8 million visitors.

Closer to home, ours is one of the many industries which thrive on dreaming of things that fall outside the possible, the mundane, the obvious.  And then taking a risk on them.  If I think of those unforgettable campaigns that have really wowed, they’ve all been, well, a bit “out there”. In short, they’ve been risky. 

Clients, and employers for that matter, rightly expect professionalism, attention to detail and careful thought.  But they also want plucky individuals who aren’t scared to take a risk – people who push down doors without being fearful of what’s on the other side.  

So, while we juggle editorial deadlines, planning documents and client meetings, let’s make sure we leave precious room each day for risk, where the really amazing stuff happens.