Magazine article Workforce

How Do I Support Risk-Taking?

Magazine article Workforce

How Do I Support Risk-Taking?

Article excerpt

DEAR W.W.: I'm frustrated. Our business is fighting for its life and I'm putting in outrageous hours, but I feel like my employees are doing the minimum just to get by. How can I encourage them to start thinking outside the box?


DEAR RISK: Everything I needed to know about risk I learned from a pot of ratatouille. Shortly out of college, I got a job in a "cooperative" restaurant where even novices like me had to take a turn at the stove. For my debut as a chef, I chose a simple meal-ratatouille. Unfortunately, when I tasted my first batch, I discovered I'd burned it. But I had a brilliant solution: mix the burned batch with an unburned batch. Wrong! Instead of losing one batch, I had to toss 'em both. I learned you can't cover up a burn; you only spread it.

It's no different when it comes to employees and risk at work. Any time you come down hard on an employee who makes a mistake, you send the message to everyone: Take a risk and you'll get burned. To learn about how to turn up the heat on risk-taking without burning out the people who work for you, I turned to Jac Fitzenz's book, "The 8 Practices of Exceptional Companies" (Amacom, 1997). It offers concrete advice on how to make your company more productive and more humane. I've adapted the following from it.

1. How many levels of approval exist within your company? Having layers of approval for a new idea is the corporate equivalent of the electric chair. Seek to simplify the process-and the pain-to which your company subjects innovative employees.

2. Are employees who take risks that don 't pan out rewarded for their efforts? …

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