Are You At-Stake, or At-Risk?

Organizations are either in an at-stake or an at-risk state. Which is your organization in?

Being in an at-stake state, the focus – and even the culture – within the organization is on what’s at stake to be gained. It’s forward-focused. It’s on the offensive.

When in an at-risk state, organizations are in defensive mode, they’re playing it safe, they’re covering their you-know-what, and are more focused on protecting what they can lose – what’s at risk – then they are on what they can gain.

You’ve likely heard the old sports saying, “The best defense is a good offence.” At-stake organizations are following this advice; at-risk organizations are not.

Companies in the start-up phase are mostly in the at-stake state. They’re focused on what they’re capable of. They’re focused on all the great things they’re going to accomplish. They’re focused on becoming successful.

For many companies, when they become successful – however they define successful – they switch from being at-stake to being at-risk. They want to protect their success. And, in doing so, they actually become more vulnerable, and often times become less successful.

The high-tech industry is a fascinating place to compare companies and the state they’re in. While there are so many start-ups in the at-stake mode, what about companies at the top? What about companies like Microsoft and Apple? What states do you think these two companies are in?

Just by watching the television ads from these two companies, you can get a feel for what state they’re in. Apple is all about being on the offence, while Microsoft’s ads show them in a reactionary mode, trying to protect what they have. The products coming out of Apple and Microsoft over the past few years also show their states. Apple has taken chances and introduced forward-thinking products, while Microsoft has either copied Apple (the Zune, for example) or done the same old thing again (Vista).

Of course, organizations are not alone. Individuals can be either at-stake or at-risk in how they operate on a daily basis. How about you? Are you at-stake, or at-risk? Are you focused on what you can accomplish, or on protecting what you’ve already accomplished? Are you going for it, or playing it safe? Are you playing offense, or defense?

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