Do Nothing?

In the absence of information, do nothing?

When information is plentiful, a conscious and deliberate decision to do nothing can be strategic.

But what do you do when the future is uncertain and information is scarce?

Lack of clarity is the “new normal.” Current market conditions have driven many companies to trade the uncertainty of innovation and investment for the certainty of cash. In fact, a June article in the Wall Street Journal stated that nonfinancial companies had accumulated $1.84 trillion in cash and other liquid assets, up 26% from a year earlier and the largest-ever increase in records going back to 1952. Cash made up about 7% of all company assets, the highest level since 1963.

Steve Jobs addressed Apple’s flight to caution at a shareholder meeting when he remarked, “Cash gives us tremendous security and flexibility. When you take risks, it’s like jumping up in the air, and it’s nice to know the ground will be there when you land.”

While many world class companies stand on the investment sidelines awaiting clarity on tax rates, healthcare, government regulation, availability of credit, and consumer demand, other companies such as Hewlett-Packard have moved ahead with aggressive acquisitions knowing such total clarity will never come.

How are your future leaders handling the new normal?

For many, the lack of clarity creates tremendous stress and fear. Fear is a legitimate response to danger and should not be ignored. Without it, we couldn’t respond to threats. But fear can paralyze as well, and doing nothing in times of stress can be crippling.

Positive stress can motivate your company’s leaders to capitalize on new, hitherto unseen opportunities. Stress is a fact of life in nature and in business. In nature, stress drives organisms to evolve or die. The same is true in business.

Mark Twain said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of fear. Today’s successful leaders must navigate the new “normal” with courage. This courage must become a core competency for high performing companies.

Have you asked your leaders and managers what they fear? Have you asked them how they plan to master their fear to continue to drive courageous and appropriate innovation and growth in your organization?

You should be scared if you haven’t…