How to Take Smart Risks

In the busy and ever-changing climate of today, it’s near enough impossible to achieve big success without taking some risks. But risky behavior can be a bad thing, too – particularly if it’s ill thought-out and reckless.

Taking what are called “smart risks” is the best way to accelerate change and advance your career. Here are some tips as to how to take them.

Look To Others

Notice colleagues and bosses who model positive risk taking, and try to figure out their secrets. If you’re in a culture of smart risk taking, it’s easier to take the initiative yourself.

Noticing and becoming familiar with what types of risks tend to reap what types of reward will help you to make better choices.

Define a Smart Risk

It’s hard to take only smart risks if you haven’t properly established what constitutes a smart risk in your own mind. Know what rewards you expect and set limits in terms of the steps you’ll take to achieve them.

Make It Second Nature

Risk taking is a behavior rather than a process – in other words, those who are good at it are those who think like risk takers.

Although it’s tricky to change your personality or nature, keeping smart risk taking in your mind and practicing at it are the best ways to become more successful at it.

Start In “The Sweet Spot”

The “sweet spot” is the area of risk in between a wild and reckless gamble and playing it totally safe. It’s the desirable area of a calculated risk, where success is likely, though no guaranteed.

Some say the sweet spot is in between a 50 and 70% chance of success. Over 70% and it’s not really a risk, but under 50% and it’s too much of a hazard.

Don’t Aim For Perfection

The good thing about taking a risk is that it’s a work in progress. Trial and error are key. Don’t over plan or aim to get things perfect first time – instead try and then adjust from there.

Work as a Team

In terms of risk-taking, getting a second opinion is invaluable. Not only will it give more perspective and help steer you towards a wider consensus, but it will help build confidence in your idea.

Start Small and Grow

Beginning with a huge and complex risk may be tempting, but it isn’t very smart. Taking small steps and growing your idea incrementally is a better way to mitigate failure and make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

Don’t Be Down Over a “Smart Failure”

If you look over your failures and see where they went wrong, you’ll learn a lot very quickly about smart risk taking. And if a failure happens in spite of you doing things smartly and correctly, then don’t beat yourself up. Failure happens – and it should not be a reason to stop trying to take smart risks.


Annie Walton Doyle writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs, visit our website.