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Arts & Entertainment

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
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine one of the world’s most beloved brands.


- 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...

About the Instructor

In an era of disruption, former 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 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.

The class helped me to further define what my company is, what it can be and ways to help it move forward in a successful manner. I appreciate the thought and clarity given by the instructor, and intend to take what I learned into the real world.

Bob Iger is one of the most successful and wise leaders and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to him speak about his experiences and his views on leadership. I have taken copious notes and I look forward to applying his teachings in my own career.

I truly enjoyed the storytelling and being able to watch and listen to speaking patterns and facial expressions. Very consistent in his presentation which was a major takeaway for me personally. This was extremely insightful and I enjoyed it. Looking forward to my next class!

Love it . Thank you for the great summary from each topic.


Sabrina Z.

Then came Alley McBeal. Similar premise. So you did achieve something by paving the way for that show. I think Cop Rock failed because the music was SOOOO mediocre. A better music producer would have saved that show.

Harrison S.

Loved Bob's take on the status quo. Maintaining the status quo in a changing environment will always be a losing strategy.

Bart J.

This lesson clued me into something about the processes of Bob Iger that everyone can learn from; consistency in application. His input on preparation (homework )and the pursuit of taking risks with the awareness of both outcomes are hallmarks of effective leadership...including the tenacity to move on when things don't quite turn out like you originally envisioned! Likewise his comments about not being a reliant disciple on data like it's some holy grail of consumer behavior was refreshing . 5 stars!

Emilija M.

So much of Bob's mentality reminds me of Walt Disney's mentality. I feel like Walt's come back to life! :)

Harry C.

I think Bob is absolutely right; risk aversion in a company can be fatal. Obviously, nobody wants to set out with the intention of failing when one undertakes these kinds of projects, but not embracing failure or just being overly cautious can be bad for business.

Timothy G.

How cool of Bob to talk about failure using an example (Cop Rock). CEOs are always talking about failure without giving examples. Too often, CEOs talk Best Practices without demonstrating it. I get it -- who wants to talk about failure? However, for those of us looking to learn, examples help/make it real. Thank you to Bob for demonstrating (not just talking) the vulnerability of failure and risk.

Todd B.

Excellent information in this lesson, as a Theatre Exhibitor for decades I agree with Mr. Iger that data runs a distant second place to being in the Theatre not only watching who's buying tickets but how they look on the way out. Happy... Ho-hum... or disappointed.

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.

Clarence C.

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