Risk Taking and Trust in a Digital Business

Chris Farrance

Chris Farrance

11 March 2014

I was listening to a eulogy at a funeral just recently – a family friend aged 85 – who was described as having an appetite for danger – not outrageous danger – more a case of heightened risk taking. And, it was just so right listening to the story of his life.

Risks come in many shapes and forms. In my sixties, I had some motorbike lessons – I can tell you I was never more pleased to see the 30mph speed limit signs!

These days my risk taking is more sedentary – generally it takes the form of new learning. Currently I’ve become quite excited by the opportunities offered by Digital Technology and have signed up for the Squared Online Digital Marketing Course.

This has certainly been a new way of learning for me – online, remote and in the company of an energetic not to say boisterous group of people a fraction of my age. It’s a challenge but also a relief not to have to know everything.

Let me invite you now to extend the thrust and novelty of this learning and engagement to the business environment.

There are a number of implications:


Leaders and managers can no longer rely on the rank they have in the organisation to get things done. The days of ‘Command and Control’ are long past. Questions are better than compliance and the workforce of today expects to have its opinions heard.


The functional benefits of silos now work against effective organisational performance. Information can’t simply go up the silo ladder and then be tipped over the top – to and fro like lifts. Think how the customer journey goes across the business as in the style of Michael Porter’s Value Chain.


The most effective way to envision businesses these days is as a set of networks or ecosystems. These are not hard wired either; they mould and shape themselves in line with the presenting needs. Think of a flotilla of sailing boats rather than a super tanker.


These days we all might as well be wearing ‘hi viz’ jackets- so much of what we do is in the public domain. A recent report (2013 Forum Global Leadership Pulse Survey) highlighted the correlation between trust and the admission of mistakes by the senior team. People see them happening. The Pulse Survey reported that leaders were reluctant to apologise – they didn’t want to look weak or incompetent.

Coaching & Mentoring

Employees value being coached using constructive feedback. Coaching relies heavily on active listening, a concern for the individual and high levels of empathy – 2020 leadership skills. As for the mentoring, this is upward mentoring where the digital natives introduce the digital immigrants – probably you -to all things social.

At a recent conference I attended, delegates were exhorted to get out of their comfort zone. You don’t have to be there all the time of course – but this is where the risk taking is a Digital Business.