Thursday, January 24, 2008

Risk-Taking is a Virtue

In his last year of life, the man who built ITT, Harold Geneen, published a book ‘The Synergy Myth: And Other Ailments Of Business Today’. The word ‘today’ in the title is as valid now as it was ten years ago, making the book a ‘library addition’ for anyone who wants to run a company someday.

In it, Geneen said. “I believe that it is important not to succumb to the latest management fad.” His view of management and success was that there was no secret, magic formula. “There are just the old-fashioned virtues of hard work, honesty, and risk taking.”

Of the three virtues, he laments that the commonest failing of mankind is the unwillingness to take risks. Because laziness and dishonesty are reviled, lots of people are industrious and honest, but “on a treadmill to nowhere – because they are so intent on playing it safe.” Mr Geneen recommends taking the initiative, being decisive, exposing yourself to failure, and seizing the opportunity, rather than deferring to higher authority, making peace with mediocrity, retreating from opportunity, and clinging to the same old routine.

Any company where politics trump risk-taking, innovation can only succeed accidentally. If you are innovative, leave such a company for one where your nature as a risk-taker can thrive.
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