Risk is not to be avoided…is to be faced
Being a student in the UK, and more specifically in London, has nothing special to be proud of, besides the quality of academic knowledge someone can gain, the realisation that in a perfect market there are unlimited choices for any taste, the living example of a diligent cultural alloy of millions of people living in the same city and the experience of being part of an unstoppable marathon race of time with its own self.
Late 2010. My first class in London Metropolitan on Management of Innovation. A proper Thatcher-style lady enters the class and starts to write on a board. A list of 8 deadly sins are a matter of time. How can a class that promotes creativity and problem solving to start with strict policies and limited availabilities?? A few years later I found out that effective communication and fertile soil for long term relationships are build through delivering the basic logistics. In gamification its called “rules” and have nothing to do with the reinforcement of following the rules but with the available “space” of a player to build his/her strategy either by sticking to the rules or to propose solutions on its inefficiency.
A few minutes later she got into explaining how the class will be delivered and the important dates we have to remember. Fortunately or not, she was a big fan of deadlines. After Monday’s classes she was uploading the course presentation, some notes and reading material. By Tuesday morning everything was gone!!! We even had a deadline for downloading the class material!!! Who does that?? Coming again to my after London life, this is called “structure” and imposes all players to be available in the same era in a specific timeframe in order for the interaction of the players with the mean to be more controllable and measurable!! This can offer a common ground for players to collaborate, and that’s what we did back then. Every Monday night I was downloading all the material and I shared it to a common Facebook group we had.
When she first got into the course material she tried to explain to us what’s common between Steve Jobs, Amancio Ortega, Richard Branson and some other known figures that would be easier for our stereotyping matching process to see the real life examples of combining risk with efficiency and life management. Things were so unclear to me, entrepreneurship, start up, innovation, break through, consistency… I was coming from an art school, I learned several ways to stay creative, how to brainstorm and how to come up with ideas, but I never got deep into definitions and the business approach of it! I was flirted by this whole new world of self-achievement, financial miracles and people been discussed for their leadership talent.
Having minimum time to realise and distinguish between a business man, an entrepreneur, a manager and a leader it was already mid of January and I had a 30-pages case study to read and present my self in the exams to answer 3 essay questions upon “effective ways of managing information”, “what are the common mistakes of start ups”, and ” reverse management of product life cycle”. Ok, back then all these sounds Chinese with Mongolian accent to me!!!
Rules of the game: no mobile, no laptop, vocabularies will be available at the class, pre-reading of case study available, notes could be taken on the case study but has to be in English, no more than 30 words per paragraph and the case study with the notes and the student number have to be hand in to the tutor two days before the exams and she would give them back again during the exams! F**k! My written English sucked! They still do, but at least I have already written 562710835 essays till now and things are getting better! I had no idea of what to write, how to write it and how to express myself. I couldn’t stand to fail the class, I was there under conditional offer (since I was an Erasmus student) and the deal was to pass all my classes with 2:1 in order to accept me to be transfer from University of Nicosia to London Metropolitan for the rest of my degree.
21st of January. I was the last person who handed his exam paper. I asked the speculator where I could find Miss Har******. I walked straight to her office with my knees shaking and cold sweat all the way down to my spin. “Miss Har****** I consider myself a young entrepreneur, and I can see my common with all those people we have discussed in the class. In one way or another they all manage to identify the loophole in the market of their interest and they propose a solution to specific beneficiaries. Actually they didn’t literally propose, they act quickly in order to get the proof of concept with the risk of failing.” “Yes George, that is exactly what they did, and that is the general idea around start ups but I see no reason of your verbal definition half an hour after I have examined you in deeper concepts.” “I am not welcoming cheating but in this case since we have been discussing about breaking the rules, problem solving, lateral thinking and risk I treated this exams like a Russian roulette. I had limited chances to pass the class, your seminars were like rocket science to me, and so I focus on my issue and set me as the main beneficiary! I considered your rules and the risks and it was a decision to check my guts not as a student but as an entrepreneur who found a solution to be tested! Miss Har******, i have changed all the content of the case study you have gave to us, I left only the first two and the last two words to each sentence untouched and the rest content carries the answer of the exams’ question. I came to the exam and copy-pasted nearly everything. What have I gained out of these? I really got into deep investigation to answer the questions and you can easily see this, since i answered 3 questions in nearly 30 pages. i even researched cognitive reading to find out the bias our eyes carry towards known content in order to leave untouched exactly as many words as needed. Plus, I wanted to confess my “crime” to you, in order for you to treat me as a product and consider yourself as a customer who actually was persuaded to buy it. This is not part of Corporate Social Responsibility neither of Ethics in Business but the right decision-making of a young Leader! My concept not only works, but also is a rigid innovation in structured environment! I know you have been cheated, but it was my chance to survive and in a competitive market where you firstly need to survive and then to lead.” I left the room with the smile of an Oscar winner!
That year, Miss Har******. was the one who wrote a reference letter and an appraisal for my year performance to the Admission Committee for the final acceptance of my transfer.
I chose to start this blog with a personal experience just to share the trip of decision making to any upcoming dilemma and the arrogant approach towards risk that all kind of entrepreneurs show. I would like to finish this first article with a definition on De Bonno in his book “Lateral Thinking”:
“Lateral thinking would temper the arrogance of any rigid conclusion no matter how soundly it appeared to have been worked out. Vertical thinking is concerned with proving or developing concept patterns. Lateral thinking is concerned with restructuring such patterns (insight) and provoking new ones (creativity).”