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.

Retired .com CEO and presently instructing Social Entrepreneurship curriculum.

he is the best leader i ever heard. his creativity and enthusiasm impacted me alot.

The planning process and vision development elements were very interesting.

This was amazing! Bob spoke very clear throughout the duration of this class and was very informative. His knowledge and experience is priceless. I'm motivated to apply a lot of these principles to my business and I'm excited about the future of my company.


Riley L.

I am currently using this lesson in my business meetings with my leadership team and I think it hits all the right points! I was glad that he made the point of doing your homework on the risk before jumping into something without understanding the potential consequences.

A fellow student

Brilliant insight and counter intuitive thinking. How one shouldn't withdraw or get conservative after you had a failure. As it breeds more failure. Best thing is to talk it up that you tried something big that didn't work, coming out noting it but getting back up and trying again.

Marcus M.

Have to take risks. I would love to see a Law & Order:SVU episode that was a musical (similar to "Cop Rock"). I also wonder how many of these failures were just ahead of their time (like so many shows that were cancelled after 1 season but had great potential)? How would that "Cop Rock" idea fly now? I think it might actually be interesting.... Failure = Lessons learned

Your Pal, E.

Wow... there's even a song called "Baby Merchant." Go big or go home y'all :)

Your Pal, E.

Never saw the show, but based on this scene, one could surmise that Steven Bochco didn't take a big enough risk. He's showing us a reimagined iteration of *the* most iconic scene of his entire career. Perhaps if he'd created a brand new world in which singing cops were plausible, the show would've been more successful. Also, you can see how Bochco's risk might have informed Jonathan Larson's creation of Roger in "Rent." The character has a remarkably similar vocal style.

Marilyn O.

Tony Robbins says less than 2% of the population are risk takers. Being in that 2% puts one in a position to act when opportunity meets preparation.

James B.

Right bring up the Cop Rock failure from decades ago and use it only to make yourself look good by talking about creating NYPD Blue a few years later. Don't talk about John Carter, Tomorrowland or Wrinkle In Time from literally a few years ago. As to continuing to take risks after failure, you followed up those serious failures with retreating to Disney not producing any original tentpoles and only making live action remakes from their animated library. If you're going to talk about failure, then talk about it honestly. It's a more valuable lesson to students like myself.

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.