by Steve Adubato, PhD

There was a lot of feedback to the recent column, "Thinking Outside the Box," in which I highlighted the importance of pro-actively taking risks within your organization. Following is what some readers had to say;

Jeffrey Bunin, Adjunct Professor at Rutgers Business School and CEO of Bunin Management Advisors, LLC, agrees that taking risks is essential to the success of any organization. Says Jeffrey, "It is not enough for top management to say that they want their employees to take risks. They have to provide the environment where delegation of authority, responsibility and rewards down to the lowest appropriate level in the organization are part of how the company actually operates. That way taking risks (and getting rewarded for doing so) is in accordance with company policy not against it and appropriate educated risks are dealt with at appropriate levels in the organization."

So right Jeffrey. Talking about risk taking is easy. Doing what is necessary to make employees feel safe enough to actually take risks is a lot harder.

Chris Newman (a pseudonym because this reader asked to remain anonymous), former general manager of a small electronics company, feels that he paid the ultimate price for taking a calculated risk within his organization. According to Chris, he was never a "yes" man and always spoke his mind about issues and procedures that he felt could be done in a more effective manner. Says Chris, "The owner of my company considered buying a new and expensive computer system. He asked my opinion and I advised against it because the current system we had in place was sufficient." According to Chris, his boss ignored his advice and as a result this purchase, along with several other poor decisions, plunged the company into debt. The end product was Chris being let go because they could no longer afford his services. Chris asks, "Would avoiding that risk have meant that I would still have a job?"

You never know, Chris. However, you sound like the kind of professional that communicates his opinion on important organizational issues. I don't think this was a "risk" you could have avoided taking. Organizations need more leaders like you.

Nancy Ridgeway of Doylestown, PA, is a former employee of the leading provider of business information services. According to Nancy, this multi-billion dollar public company is "now being suffocated by 'winning culture' philosophies such as 'thinking outside the box' and 'thought leadership.' Instead of concentrating on the core product and encouraging people to focus on their job and do the best job they can, all efforts are turned towards the 'leadership action plan' and leading to win. Yet, in the midst of everything, down sizing and layoffs have been happening on a quarterly basis. It has destroyed the atmosphere and morale of a great company."

You raised a great point. Focussing on "winning attitude" and promoting "outside the box" thinking should never be done at the expense of conducting an organization's daily operations.

Michael Silla, President of Sherwood & Mayfair, LLC, a strategic business development firm, has spent the past ten years taking risks in an attempt to drive positive change. According to Mike, "It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. An organization is as good as its people…human capital is the most accessible and powerful asset at hand. Outstanding leadership with exceptional communications is needed to drive a dynamic culture…A leader is not only an executive or manager. It is anyone that leads a charge to make a difference to support the organization."

Well said, Mike.