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42 Examples of Positive Risk

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Positive risk is the potential upside to an action that also has a potential downside. Pure risks such as the risk of a fire have no upside. However, most risks that are taken on purpose have much opportunity attached to them that can be called positive risk. Generally speaking, every action and inaction involves both negative risk and positive risk. The following are common examples of a positive risk.
Crossing the street.
Changing jobs.
Starting a business.
Launching a product.
Meeting new people.
Opening up to others.
Changing the way that you dress.
Investing money.
Challenging ideas in a meeting.
Taking on public speaking engagements.
Doing home renovations yourself.
Trying a new sport.
Lifting weights.
Borrowing money to improve a business.
Buying a house.
Starting a new school.
Making a friend.
Pursuing adventure.
Traveling to a foreign country.
Living in a foreign country.
Trying to speak in a second language where you may be misunderstood.
Using power tools.
Sharing your contact information at a conference.
Speaking up in a meeting.
Trying a new restaurant.
Going on a first date.
Giving a presentation.
Using public wifi.
Installing a new mobile app.
Cycling to work.
Changing a top selling product.
A business that invests in a new system.
Outsourcing work to a partner.
Entering new markets.
Changing the visual identity of a brand.
Challenging groupthink.
Acquiring a competitor.
Learning to swim as an adult.
Adopting a pet.
Making a commitment
Starting a family.
Starting a second career at retirement.

What Qualifies as Positive Risk?

In risk management traditions, positive risk is the potential for an action to produce more positives than expected. When you take a risk, you're expecting rewards. The chance that rewards exceed expectations is a positive risk. The following are additional examples according to this definition:

Economic Risk

A low unemployment rate is a good thing. However, it is common for policy makers to avoid the positive risk that the unemployment rate dips too low. An extremely low unemployment rate tends to trigger inflation as the supply of workers dries up and employees begin to demand higher and higher salaries to switch jobs.

Project Risk

Project managers track the risk that a project is overbudget and the positive risk that it is underbudget. Underbudget projects are usually viewed as the result of inflated estimates that potentially tied up resources unnecessarily.

Supply Chain Risk

It is increasingly common for supply chains to run on a just-in-time method of inventory control whereby inputs arrive just as they are needed. In this context, the positive risk of early deliveries can cause inefficiencies.

Engineering Risk

Engineers may manage the risk that a building won't last long enough. They may also many the positive risk that it is built to last too long. In other words, an office building built to last 10,000 years was likely over-engineered from the perspective of those financing the project.

Competitive Risk

A business may want to beat all competitors. However, a business that completely dominates a market may hope that their competitors survive so that they don't attract the attention of regulators who view the business as a monopoly.

Technology Risk

In the pursuit to advance technology there are risks that technology could become so advanced so as to be destructive to things that humans value such as culture or life itself. For example, the risk that artificial intelligence will grow to dominate things that humans now control. The potential for machines to become too smart could be viewed as a positive risk.

Positive Risk vs Pure Risk

The term positive risk can also be defined as an action that can produce both positive and negative outcomes. This can be contrasted with pure risk that is only negative such as the risk of a fire.

Positive Risk Debate

Some people think of risk as equating to pure risk such that they will argue there is no such thing as a positive risk. This is a matter of semantics as they are thinking of risk as being the negative outcome where it is also common to think of risk as being the action that is taken. If you think of risk as being an action that is taken the idea of positive risk feels intuitive. However, if you think of risk as being a negative outcome, it is hard to see how this could be positive. Interestingly, risk management professionals don't tend to agree to either of these views whereby positive risk is the potential for more positive results than you expect.


Positive risk has two possible definitions. The first is an action that has both positive and negative possible outcomes. This is how most people think of positive risk and is an appropriate definition for most domains. Risk management tends to see positive risk more as an unexpected amount of a good thing. You take actions because you expect a positive result. However, you may get more of a positive result that you expected. This is a positive risk. For example, a project that comes in underbudget and before schedule that is higher quality than expected.
Overview: Positive Risk
Definition (1)
The potential upside to an action that also has a potential downside.
Definition (2)
The risk of too much of a good thing.
Definition (2)
The potential that your actions, decisions and plans will produce more benefits than you planned.
Related Concepts
Next: Pure Risk
More about risk:
AI Risk
Risk Avoidance
Brand Risk
Budget Risk
Business Risks
Change Risk
Compliance Risk
Concentration Risk
Cost Risk
Country Risk
Credit Risk
Demand Risk
Dread Risk
Economic Risk
Exchange Rates
Existential Risk
External Risk
Financial Risk
Force Majeure
Good Risk
Human Error
Risk Identification
Infinite Risk
Inflation Risk
Inherent Risk
Interest Rates
Internal Risks
Investing Risk
Legal Risk
Liquidity Risk
Model Risk
Moment Of Risk
Natural Disasters
Negative Risk
Operations Risk
Passive Risk
Personal Risk
Political Risk
Process Risk
Procurement Risk
Product Risk
Project Risk
Pure Risk
Quality Risk
Recession Risk
Risk Mitigation
Refinancing Risk
Regulatory Risk
Reputational Risk
Residual Risk
Resource Risk
Revenue Risk
Risk Appetite
Risk Aversion
Risk Examples
Risk Management
Risk Management Process
Risk Matrix
Risk Meaning
Risk Measurement
Risk Taking
Risk Tolerance
Risk Triggers
Risk vs Issue
Risk vs Opportunity
Risk vs Uncertainty
Risk-Reward Ratio
Seasonal Risk
Secondary Risk
Security Risk
Settlement Risk
Risk Sharing
Speculative Risk
Strategic Risk
Strategy Risk
Supply Risk
Systemic Risk
Tactical Risk
Taxation Risk
Technology Risk
Risk Transfer
Unforced Error
Upside Risk
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