Business, Politics & Society

The Importance of Risk-Taking

Bob Iger

Lesson time 9:05 min

Bob shares why he thinks taking risks is essential to success, even when they end in failure. He uses an example from early in his career when he made an epic mistake that ultimately yielded a huge success.

Bob Iger
Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership
Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine the future of one of the world’s most beloved brands.
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- Looks like the winds are changing. - Ah, change is good. - Yeah, but it's not easy. [MUSIC PLAYING] - I happen to believe that in businesses that are changing so fast, in a world that is just rife with disruption and the unknowns sometimes can outweigh the knowns, if you try to maintain the status quo, you're likely going to experience more failure than success. The worst thing that a company could do in a dynamic marketplace is to adopt status quo as a strategy. Status quo is a losing strategy. And so if you're going to stray from the status quo or abandon doing things the way they have been or doing things the way a company has been doing them, there's an element of risk right away. Anything that is new and different is risky but necessary. And that's the philosophy that I brought to this job. Almost throughout my life, but certainly throughout my career, I've not been risk-averse. I'm not sure whether I was born without the fear gene or what it is, but I worked for a number of people over the years that were great risk-takers. Michael Eisner was one of them. Roone Arledge, who was the head of ABC Sports at the time that I worked at ABC Sports, was an incredible risk-taker. And I saw that great risk-taking had great benefits. [MUSIC PLAYING] Early in my tenure as the head of ABC Entertainment, when I was developing and programming ABC's primetime television programs and schedule, Steven Bochco, a very successful producer, had produced and a number of shows that were hits for other networks-- namely "Hill Street Blues," and "LA Law," and produced "Doogie Howser, MD" for us, came in with the premise that it was time to do a police musical. He had done a police drama, "Hill Street Blues," and he was enamored of the idea of telling stories on television using songs to, essentially, move the story along. And he pitched to me "Cop Rock." And I thought it was just a brilliant idea-- brilliant because there was nothing like it on television. And I believed at that point that television had gotten fairly boring because most of the shows that were on were derived from similar programs of the past-- comedies, and dramas, and made-for-television movies. And because Steven was such a great producer, I was confident in his ability to produce a great show. In reality, I had no idea whether a singing police drama was going to work or not, but I liked the idea of breaking the mold, and I liked the idea of giving someone who had had so much creative success and someone that I respected so much a chance to try something that was so different. And off we went. - OK, that's it. And hey, hey, (SINGING) Let's be careful out there. Let's be careful out there. - "Cop Rock" was a failure from the moment it went on the air. It lasted 11 shows on ABC. And I went to the wrap party, the party that you have when a series ends, and Steven gave a speech about it's not over until the fat lady sings. And we all looked up, and the...

Embrace risk, build resilience

In an era of disruption, Disney CEO Bob Iger led one of the world’s most beloved brands to unprecedented success with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Now, through case studies and lessons from 45 years in media, Bob teaches you how to evolve your business and career. Learn Bob’s strategies for expanding a brand, leading with integrity, and making big moves—from risk management to the art of negotiation.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It was great again to watch how truly successful people are not the ones that shout and try to impress but rather those who stay composed, self-reflect, think counter-intuitively and communicate with ease

Retired .com CEO who instructs Social Entrepreneurship coursework

As an owner of a broadcast company. Bob Iger's leadership insight is valuable and I will put to work the notes I took to grow my business.

Bob Iger is an absolute gem! All aspiring, and many current, business leaders should pause to listen to his wise words. Thank you Bob for a great Master Class.


A fellow student

I love Bob not only sharing success stories but also failures. And how to deal with it.

Andrew L.

Status quo is a losing strategy. I have seen this personally in my role as the new executive director of a non-profit. The work that was done for the last 10 years were the same things that have always been done. I've changed things up, created new partnerships and educational career paths along with new website and a social media presence. It has been a lot and we have had to adjust our path at times. But there have been risks. Calculated risks have been important in a cash-low organization. There have been some choices that haven't worked out well for example, we wanted longer classes on demand, however our students really needed to a more instructor led option. I liked the option to try something different in an environment where business is constantly changing. The responsibility portion was part of a thoughtful leadership that includes study so opinions and judgments based not on impulse, but also research. We recently ran a facebook post in our non-profit about risk taking and I'm proud of the points that tied to what I am learning before I started this course. Great reinforcement. To grow, we need to be an effective risk-taker. There is a big difference between effective risk-taking and just being reckless. Effective risk-takers seek opportunities, use analytical skills, are self aware and act decisively. One way to not let fear of failure control us is to build self-confidence. How can this be done effectively? KEY ACTION STEPS - Develop a thicker skin. It sounds easy, but at times it is not and it challenges us to be our best. - Set a small goal and achieve it. At times large goals can be set, which have their place, but when building self-confidence it is important to have some wins under the belt. Small, attainable goals help. - Actively seek knowledge and increase your competence. Learning builds confidence and in a fast changing business world it is critical to keep up with the latest in soft and hard skills. - Keep an accomplishment and/or gratitude list. It is easy to forget how far we have come. Having a reminder is a great way to keep us moving forward. - Cultivate a habit of positive self-talk. Thoughts feed our actions and it is important to not allow ourselves to dip into a negative place that impacts our self-confidence.

Chris D.

There's never been a better age for risk taking. You can work your day gig, and with the Internet et al come home and work your side hustle/make connections/do the research and work needed to get ahead. It's December now, I'm using the month to plan my 2020, set goals, and understand what risks it's going to take to get there. Because I myself am starting a new film production company - this was a great lesson at a great time.

Kevin B.

I love creativity and taking risks as Bob explained. He explains everything in such a good way!

Ian S.

This really resonated with me. Im inherently a big risk taker and have failed countless times but something deep inside me keeps getting up and going again. Ive questioned my decision making many times but when those small and big wins come infrequently, it makes it all worth it. Thank you Bob for sharing the wisdom.