The Fear of Failure

So what happens to corporations when they develop risk management tools that become a global management focus? The important part you should understand is: this is the natural process. I have found that, if you look at organizational life cycles, starting from the startup, or entrepreneurial phase, to the developmental phase, to the organizational phase, to a maturity phase, you’ll see that as they go up that natural curve, they add additional ways to control risk.

So how is it that organizations transmute into what I call a “hyper-risk focus.” It’s simple, really: failure.

There’s an old adage that suggests the biggest cause of failure is the fear of failure. I don’t believe there is any better example of that adage than in the area of innovation and product management. What happens is that fear begins to rule the day. Since fear doesn’t sound nearly as good as risk management, we like to call it risk management because it sounds like – we’re managing risk, right? The problem is that, in the process of fear management, we begin to look at every single product idea, every technology not as an opportunity to serve and provide net customer value – but as a possible negative mark on our employee file. Possibly as demotion, or even termination! As a result, “CYA” enjoys no finer hour.