Moving Forward

As I write this, the economy has been in a slump for nearly three years, depending on how you define the downturn. In response, companies have slashed costs and lowered investment in an attempt to weather the storm. Considering the current environment, this chapter is as timely as ever—for I believe that in downturns and difficult times, CEOs and other organizational leaders must continue to push their tolerance for risk. Fred Smith founded FedEx in one of the worst economic periods since the Depression; Compaq was launched in 1982 amid a recession; and Wal-Mart opened a record number of stores during the 1991–92 recession.

In a Business 2.0 piece, Gary Hamel and Erick Schoenfeld argue for the need for continued innovation in difficult times. They observe that cost cutting and innovation avoidance in economic downturns only make companies "smaller, not better." Innovation, combined with courage and prudent investment, will position the leading companies of the future:

In the midst of hunkering down, we need to remind ourselves that we are still living in a world pregnant with possibility. The hard times will end. Billions of dollars in new wealth will be created. Focus too much on retrenchment, and your company will emerge from the downturn weakened, diffident and uncertain of the future. Manage this period well, and your company will emerge lithe, impassioned, and raring to go. Those who beat the bear will be ready to ride the next bull.[8]

It's true that fear makes us more risk averse, and that some reckless CEOs have given risk taking a bad name. However, members of Accountable Organizations understand that, even during tough times, they need to embrace educated, responsible risk taking to ensure the growth and prosperity of their companies, as well as the advancement of their careers. These risk takers are creative, courageous, and conscientious—they have the faith and will to follow their passion, and they do their homework. When you make it your mission to be the vanguard, you put your company on the cutting edge.


  1. Do you challenge yourself to take risks in your work and in your relationships with others? To help make that determination, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the last completely crazy idea I had?

    • Are there any challenging conversations I've been putting off?

    • What more do I know today about our customers that I didn't know yesterday? How am I applying this knowledge to how I do business?

    • When was the last time I failed?

    This last question should be of particular interest to you. If you haven't "failed" in some respect, it means you've been content to live within your comfort zone.

  2. How well do you encourage risk taking among those who look to you for guidance? Solicit feedback from your team regarding how challenged they feel in their job and how confident they feel in taking educated, responsible risks.

  3. If you are a team member at an organization with a risk-averse environment, how can you introduce or propose educated, responsible risk taking to your supervisor and/or colleagues?

[8]Gary Hamel and Erick Schoenfeld, "Why It's Time to Take a Risk," Business 2.0 (April 2003): 63–68.

The Accountable Organization. Reclaiming Integrity, Restoring Trust
The Accountable Organization: Reclaiming Integrity, Restoring Trust
ISBN: 0891061851
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 82
Authors: John Marchica
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