There are all sorts of reasons why so many big organizations can be slow to make changes that everyone agrees need to be made. “Our current margins are too good, even though the business is being eroded by new competitors.” “Our current products are still popular, even though a new generation of offerings is getting traction.” “Our current distribution system can’t reach the customers we need to reach to build a new business.”
In other words, most leaders and organizations are really good at quantifying the risks of trying something bold or striking out in a new direction. What are the downsides of and obstacles to introducing a new product or targeting a new market? They are far less adept at reckoning honestly with the risks of staying the course. What’s the worst that can happen if we do more of the same?
In a very real sense, the first job of leadership is to identify and overcome the costs of complacency. To persuade colleagues at every level that there are genuine risks for the failure to take risks—that the only thing they have to fear, is the fear of change itself.
Over at HBR, I explain why “Playing It Safe Is Riskier than You Think.”