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How to be a fearless risk-taker at work

July 7, 2015, 6:30 PM UTC

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important for women to take risks in business? is written by Donna Wiederkehr, CMO of Dentsu Aegis Network.

For anyone who wants to be successful in business, there is no avoiding risk. Whether you’re a man or woman, risk-taking will be a part of what shapes your career. However, I prefer to think about it as innovating as opposed to risk-taking. The latter suggests you have weighed the pros and cons and made a decision that it’s worth the ‘risk’ to move forward with an idea. That perception is limiting.

On the other hand, innovators think about the future. They think about shaping it. They see all the potential possibilities and are eager to get ahead, and beat out their competitors. This clarity of vision allows you to plan for the road ahead and ultimately, take the necessary steps (risks) to achieve your goal. This thinking is a completely different mindset than how most people traditionally think of ‘risk-taking.’ It requires you to think bigger, and outside of the box. Business is about results. Results are about growth. Growth requires new ways of thinking. That requires innovation, which is often viewed as a risk.

Convergence across our industry means we have so many new ways to drive a business forward that it’s essential to learn new skills in order to keep pace with innovation. There once was a period when leaders looked for consistency of delivery with tried-and-true ways to drive growth – this no longer exists. While achieving results remains critical, exponential business growth will only come from new formulas, partners, and approaches.

And the best way to drive innovation is by creating an innovative culture. This can only start at the top of an organization, so the mindset and behavior can trickle down through the entire company, at every level. You should strive just as much to be an innovator within the first six months of your first job as day one in the C-suite. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – this is how you and your organization will grow. Connect your role to the company’s overall vision and you will begin to see new opportunities for innovation.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important for women to take risks in business?

What the financial crisis taught this Bank of America executive about risk by Meredith Verdone, global wealth & investment management marketing executive at Bank of America.

How this woman became the first female dean of a top b-school by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

What I think about when I think about failing by Colleen Smith, vice president of SaaS and Cloud at Progress.

Here’s how bragging can boost your career by Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of InkHouse.

This CEO cashed in her IRA to start her own company by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

An unlikely degree choice got me my dream job by Lori Bailey, global head of special lines at Zurich Insurance.

Why getting too comfy at work is the ultimate career killer by Krista Bourne, president of Houston Gulf Coast Region at Verizon Wireless.

Would you risk your job to move abroad? by Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing at Sephora.

Why it’s okay to break the rules at work by Susan Coelius Keplinger, entrepreneur.

Why recent graduates shouldn’t plan their careers by Teresa Briggs, vice chair and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Is gender bias a reason to quit your job? by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

The one way to guarantee failure at work by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why starting my own business at 25 was a huge mistake by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.

Build-A-Bear CEO: Why women need to take risks in business by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.