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Talent Dynamics RSS Feed Blog Archive: April 2010

Jan's Corner: harnessing risk for growth

Business brings with itself the risk of failure. Understandably we spend an enormous amount of time and money to manage risks and avoid failure: this can shield a business not just from risk but also from valuable growth and potential improvement opportunities. Moreover, it can rob people of critical experience and learning, being better at their jobs and contributing more value.

You might have heard the story of Thomas Watson from IBM who called a manager into his office after he had just lost $10 million for the business. Upon reception, the manager said apologetically: “I failed, and I won’t be surprised if you fire me.”Watson famously replied “Fire you? Now that I have invested 10 million dollars in educating you? You must be kidding.”

Not everyone can afford to invest $10 million into one learning lesson but business people who deliberately embrace learning and growth have something in common. They are excellent at spotting new value-creating opportunities, even if it involves risking failure and at distinguishing between failures that steer the business compared with failures that could sink the business. They then plan to fail and enjoy experimenting with new things to learn and improve.

What opportunities in your business are you missing out on today, by avoiding mistakes that could stretch and steer you?

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