I recently went with some colleagues to walk around the edge of the CN Tower, about 350 meters high. They call it ‘The Edge Walk’ and, while it may not actually be risky – you are tied in pretty tight! – it certainly feels risky. (Check out the photos and a video clip at www.facebook.com/VoiceToWord.)

When I told people about it I was surprised how many people told me they would never try it. It emphasized to me how different people are when it comes to risk-taking. And it made me think about one of the dimensions we use to compare cultures – risk aversion vs. risk tolerance.

While people everywhere vary in where they stand on the scale with regards to risk tolerance and aversion, cultures also do. I would describe a culture, in some ways, as a personality preference. Some cultures tend to tolerate risk better than others. And, like individuals, they have preference for certain behaviours which allow them to balance the degree of risk they can tolerate.

Those with a high degree of risk aversion tend to carry out extensive research before making any decision. They generally choose a stable job over an unstable position with a high salary, for example. They tend to like a lot of rules and regulations and don’t like a lot of changes.

Those who are rather risk tolerant tend to make decisions with less information and adjust as needed over time. Many entrepreneurs are risk tolerant since there are no guarantees when you have your own business. They tend to be more tolerant of difference in all areas and look forward to change.

Canada rates around the middle of the scale. We profess to be very tolerant of diversity (and we have to with so many new immigrants.) On the other hand, we have many laws which, we actually follow, and that helps to instill a sense of stability and control which mitigates against the uncertainty.

You can read more about this dimension and the other four put forward and studied by cultural expert Geert Hofstede at http://geert-hofstede.com/canada.html. At that link, you can also compare rankings between several countries of your choice.

One more thing – whether you come from a country with a high degree or a low degree of risk tolerance, if you have immigrated to Canada, you are probably towards the higher range of risk tolerance compared to the average in your country of origin. After all, it is risky to immigrate. So, as a risk taker, perhaps you would also like to try the Edge Walk out and see Toronto from a birds-eye view (if they ever fly that high!)