22 Ways Corporate Executives can Avoid Taking Risks

  1. Never, ever examine yourself or the way you manage your  people.
  2. Never hire smart people. Turn down all applicants with broad intellectual or artistic interests. Instead, look for applicants who are good-looking and make good impressions. The perfect applicant is one  who is most comfortable working within the “box.”
  3. Whatever it is you do, do it over and over and over  again. Never look at where your business, market, or competition is going.
  4. Discourage all questions.
  5. Encourage a corporate mind-set that labels people who are creative as “flakes.”
  6. Have lots of structured meetings. Kill ideas  immediately as they are offered with comments like: “It’ll never work,” “It cost too much,” “It’s been tried before,” “If it was any good, someone else would have done it,” “Get a committee to look into it,” “I’ll get  back to you,” “Yes, but…,” or try giving dirty looks or silence. If a    meeting should produce an idea that you can’t kill, demand instant documentation and cost estimates. Require prior assurance that the idea   will succeed and let everyone know that their career is “on the line.”
  7. Force everyone to work with your system. Never tolerate  any suggestion that implies that your system may contribute to a problem.
  8. Make your strategic plans and goals as vague as possible. Never let your people know what your “real” plans are. Never change your plans.
  9. Never offer meaningful incentives or rewards. Maintain that all profits must go back into the company for the good of the  company.
  10. Never allow people to loosen up in meetings. Something happens when people arouse their playful sides, they start coming up with ideas. Keep things serious.
  11. Discourage all initiative. Tell people exactly how to  do their jobs. If you hired the right people, you probably won’t have  employees who are taking initiatives.
  12. Maintain a highly centralized organization.
  13. Do not be accessible to your people. Always keep your door closed. Use body language to show that you’re not to be disturbed.
  14. Cultivate blandness. Establish dress codes and symmetrical  organizational charts. Discourage anything that might excite people about their work.
  15. Promote your least creative people as high and as fast as you can. Make them highly visible by awarding them company cars,  titles, parking spaces, special bonuses, and other perks.
  16. If someone offers an idea, tell them it’s irrelevant. If they prove it’s relevant, tell them it can’t work. If they prove it can work, tell them it’s dangerous. If they prove it’s safe, tell them it’s unsaleable. If they prove it’s saleable, tell them you’ll create a committee to study it. Make sure no one with real power is on the committee. This way no one with real clout will push it.
  17. If someone wants to try something new, remind them of  all their past failures and mistakes.
  18. If you notice someone becoming preoccupied with a  problem, tell them to think about it on their own time, but not yours.
  19. Never allow intuitions, gut feelings, or hunches.
  20. If you absolutely must accept a creative idea, provide no feedback whatsoever to its creator.
  21. Send lots of memos and copies to everyone about playing it safe. When you play not to lose, you don’t have to worry about taking risks, innovating or confronting challenges.
  22. When your company is no longer competitive, make sure  your employees realize that the collapse of the company was beyond your control. Blame it on the price of oil, the global economy, the government, unfair practices of suppliers, or unethical customers.


Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.


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