A few years ago, three of my good friends decided to go skydiving together. This adventure has since become the stuff of folklore, as it so clearly illustrated the impact of Risk Type personality on behaviour.
First to jump was Deliberate Derek. Exuding calmness and favouring a planned approach, Derek was always the planner of the group. Very calculated and confident in his own abilities, Derek wanted to do things by the book.
Unsurprisingly, Derek paid attention to all the instructions in detail and, in his extremely well-organised and sure-footed way, executed a picture-perfect skydive. Ticking all the boxes, he remained controlled and got a pat on the back from the instructor. Unfazed, and with a shrug of the shoulders, Derek expected no less.
Next to go was excitable Eric. Like a small puppy, Eric was bouncy, full of enthusiasm and raring to go. Having told all his friends and family about the skydive and booked a recording of the event, he was no less animated on the day and very keen to get underway. Not one to let the little details get in the way, at times Eric’s excitement and distractibility meant he wasn’t paying attention to the instructions.
When the time came, Eric leapt excitedly from the plane, full of adrenaline and emotion. However, in typical Eric fashion, he had jumped too early and the instructors jumping with him were caught off-guard and quickly jumped out after him. Because of his over-eagerness to leap from the plane, Eric was not in the right position and was flipping uncontrollably as he plummeted. His instructors had no choice but to pull his parachute early as a safety precaution.
As a result, Eric missed the opportunity to free-fall and endured a very long float back down to Earth. Having had such high hopes for the jump, Eric was devastated and wasted no time in regaling friends of the traumatic events (in his version, he was in no way to blame!). Undeterred, Eric went on to do another, much more successful skydive.
The third friend, Adventurous Alec, possesses some of the characteristics displayed by both Eric and Derek. He has the combination of poise and resilience seen in Derek, along with Eric’s gung-ho impulsivity. When it came to the jump, Alec leaped calmly from the plane and, in his natural unflappable way, enjoyed the skydiving experience and spent time taking in the view.
In fact, he was so cool, calm and collected that his instructors had concerns that he may not pull his chute. When the moment to pull the chute passed, and Alec continued to free-fall towards the ground, the instructors leant over and pulled Alec’s chute for him.
Ever the intrepid adventurer, Alec was unfazed by this emergency intervention and calmly announced that he was planning to pull his chute, he was just enjoying the experience while he could.
I’ve known this friend for 20 years and I can say whole-heartedly that his very relaxed, chilled, and unperturbed approach is regularly displayed throughout life!
Risk Personality & Behaviour
Whilst there has been a bit of poetic license in the renaming of our three characters to maintain their anonymity, I can assure you that all the insights from the experience are 100% true to life – and perfect illustrations of the real-world effects of Risk Type on our behaviours.
Prior to the skydive, all three friends had completed the Risk Type Compass (RTC) assessment and had been shown their Risk Types – where they sit in the 360-degree spectrum of risk dispositions. Deliberate Derek is both measured and calm; Excitable Eric is both emotional and daring; and Adventurous Alec is both daring and calm. In each case, their approach to the skydiving experience was perfectly illustrative of their Risk Type.
Their Risk Types are depicted in the Compass below:
Although skydiving is generally outside the usual realms of day-to-day life, it serves to illustrate how different risk dispositions approach decision-making and any ‘risky’ activity.
Humanity as a whole has evolved to balance approaches to risk, for the sake of the survival of the human race. Research has shown a remarkable evenness across the Risk Types in ‘Team Homo Sapiens’. This evenness has ensured our survival: the Adventurous caveman wanting to jump off a cliff to see what happens is held back by his Wary mate; and the Prudent caveman afraid to step out of the cave in case there are predators nearby is kept alive by his spear-wielding Carefree friend.
In the workplace, individual Risk Types combine to create teams and cultures that ultimately determine the fate of businesses. A team made of all Adventurous Types will be gung-ho, while a team of Wary Types will be hesitant and resistant to change. A team with a balance of Risk Types, just like Team Homo Sapiens, and a good understanding of their differences will be the most effective decision-making body.
Sarah Rasmussen, October 2018