Why Risk Innovation is critical to the futures we aspire to

If there’s one thing we cannot escape as we look to the future, it’s risk.

Risk is inevitable in a universe where past “causes” connect in complex and often unpredictable ways with future “effects,” and every action we take leads to reactions that are detrimental to someone in some way.

And just to make things harder, the sheer complexity, the interconnectedness, and the technological capabilities of today’s society, vastly amplify the uncertainty surrounding present-day actions and future consequences.

As a result, if we’re to thrive in the future, we need to get a better handle on risk and how we think about it. The consequences of not doing so, ironically, are that our outmoded ideas about risk actually become a risk in themselves and threaten the future we aspire to.

Thinking Differently About Risk

This need to think differently about risk underpins the Risk Innovation Nexus at ASU — an initiative committed to connecting ethical and responsible innovation with value growth.

The seeds of the ASU Risk Innovation Nexus were planted several years ago, while I was working with entrepreneurial students at the University of Michigan. Faced with a bewilderingly complex landscape around emerging and hard to grapple with risks — many of them social and political in nature — it was clear that entrepreneurially minded creators of the future needed a completely new risk toolkit if they were to not just succeed, but succeed in a way that that was a win-win for them and society more broadly.

However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the ASU Idea Enterprise provided the opportunity to transform these seeds into a flourishing enterprise.

With the encouragement of the Idea Enterprise and the support of Entrepreneurship + Innovation at ASU, we launched the Risk Innovation Accelerator in 2017 with the aim of providing time and resource-constrained entrepreneurs and others with a unique toolkit for navigating what we came to call ”orphan risks” — those hard to quantify and easy to ignore risks that nevertheless have a habit of coming back to bite.

Orphan risks making up the Risk Innovation Nexus risk landscape

Working at the Nexus of Entrepreneurship and Social Value Creation

In 2019 we changed our name to the Risk Innovation Nexus, reflecting the evolving nature of our approaches that empower anyone working at the nexus of entrepreneurship and social value creation in a rapidly changing world. And with it, we began to see those initial seeds transformed into a powerful array of tools and resources that uniquely support entrepreneurial success.

This phase of the Nexus is coming to an end as our initial seed funding wraps up. The good news though is that the  tools and resources our fantastic team has produced will continue to be freely available to anyone looking to succeed in today’s complex world.

Of course I may be a little biased here as the Nexus is near and dear to my heart, but working in the thick of technology innovation within an increasingly complex social, environmental and geopolitical landscape, I cannot emphasize enough how important these tools and resources are.

One of the traits of complex, non-linear systems is that they look as if they are thriving, until seemingly-insignificant and often overlooked events lead catastrophic failures. And an important part of building resilience is having the ability to identify and navigate around risks that are hard to quantify, and because of this are often discounted, and yet can mean the difference between success and failure.

Developing a Risk Innovation Mindset

This is where a risk innovation mindset is critical–not just for entrepreneurs, but for anyone striving to build a better future. And it’s also why it’s central to the work of a college that is founded on opening up pathways to better futures.

As we wrap up this phase of the Nexus, please do check out the resources below, and feel free to contact me if you want to lear more.