Monday, March 31, 2008

Fear, the stinking smell of fear!

Recently a friend showed me an article in Fast Company about the fall of a once great company. As I read through the article and think back to the rise and falls of many a company I have witnessed over the years, something from that article struck a cord,
"AOL lacked a risk-taking environment," says one exile. "It was about self-preservation."
And what might cause this "lack of risk-taking"? Why the stinking death rot of fear of course!

Fear is a paralyzing force that can render an once energetic and enterprising company down to a weeping, blubbering, shivering, simpering shell of it's former self. Fear can make the great fall, and the mediocre... well, even more miserable than they already are. In fact, my advice is that anytime any of our intrepid buccaneers starts to smell the stinking smell of fear within the halls of their corporate warship. It is time to take a page from wise rats of a sinking ship, squeak out your "Geronimo!" and head for the waters! Besides, who's ever heard of a successful buccaneer quivering in the hulls of his ship in fear?

Truth is, the fundamental bases of any modern capitalistic enterprise is a measured and calculated taking of risk in hope for greater gains. To stop taking risk is in essence to stop doing business. It is equivalent of a person just curling up and waiting to dying. The resulting effects of fear is to destroy this risk taking spirit that is core to the success of any business. Without which (much like a person) the business will eventually wither and die.

For example, take our enterprising captain of the high seas. When he spots a sail over the horizon, what does he do? He does not cower and say "Sail away!" No, he sails closer to investigate to determine if the ship is a prize to be won, or some navy warship to evade. If he is gripped with fear, he would have never decide to sail up close to see that it is indeed a prize laden down with gold and booty!

"But" you say, "what happen if it was a warship?!" Well my friend, I did say measured and calculated risk taking. Know what you are able to risk and gamble cautiously, but fully commit yourself to the gamble and course until proven unwise. Even then, you do not panic, abandon ship and leave all that you have risked. Rather you change course and salvage what you can to fight (and more importantly) and to plunder another day.

The main problem with fear is that it leads to panic, and when a person (or company) panics, they cease to act or decide rationally. They are left with only the ability to react to the situation, when they most need to plan ahead to determine the best course of action for the long term welfare of the company and themselves. Instead they can only think in the short term and make drastic decisions without consider their full consequence and cost. This is where fear does its true damage. To quote an old military adage "It is not the defeat that destroys an army, rather it's the panic stricken route that does it"

So my fellow buccaneers, think twice when you feel the cold icy grip of fear take hold of your heart. Before you make any rash decision consider the true consequences of fear.

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