Our most revered business icons of the last few decades are the bold risktakers, such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs. Yet in today's stock market-driven economy, companies are playing it safe, with too many leaders focused on short-term gains, rather than value creation. The result is a static business culture that generates forgettable results—even as the world demands big solutions. So how do we get back in the risk-taking game? In The Risk Factor, Deborah Perry Piscione takes the most comprehensive look at this crucial, undervalued leadership behavior, and outlines how companies must support risk-taking across the enterprise. Exploring the heroes of risk, including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and technologists, and the role risk-taking and failure tolerance play in their success, she makes a compelling case not only for big, flashy mergers or acquisitions, but also for unorthodox choices in everything from leadership to corporate social responsibility. Drawing on case studies from a wide range of now-famous giants (Netflix, Salesforce) and successful start-ups (Tesla, NetApp), she distills lessons for both new entrepreneurs and established companies whose longtime risk aversion has cost them more than they realize.
Though Piscione (Secrets of Silicon Valley) brings infectious excitement about the corporate value of risk to her latest business guide, she is less successful in imparting specifics. Humans are innate "risk takers," Piscione declares, but risk has become a bad thing except, perhaps, in Silicon Valley, where risk is pervasive and failure isn't a black mark; it's often a "badge of honor." Piscione's best at defining and describing her main subject, including some fascinating genetic components to risk-taking behavior. But, she admits, it's easy to talk about change and quite another to do it. Describe your company culture in three words, she suggests, something Google has done well, but might not be as easy for the average corporate team. Creating a "culture of how," Piscione writes, might include the "death of HR" potentially valuable advice for a large corporation but less so for a small one, which may not even have an HR department. Still, Piscione's description of what can happen at companies that embrace risk (NetApp, Qualcomm, Intuit) may be inspiring enough for some readers to compensate for the book's detail-light approach.