The Fine Line Between Smart and Foolish Risks in Business

Memarzadeh Ali
3 min readDec 22, 2022
Photo by Abdulwahab Alawadhi

Risk is an integral part of any business, and it is essential for companies to take calculated risks in order to grow and succeed. However, not all risks are created equal. While some risks can lead to great rewards, others can be foolish and result in disaster. In this article, we will explore the difference between smart and foolish risks and provide examples from well-known companies around the world to demonstrate and prove this point.

  • Smart risks are well-thought-out and calculated.

Smart risks are carefully considered and planned, with the potential outcomes and consequences weighed against the potential rewards. These risks are taken with a clear strategy in mind and are designed to achieve a specific goal. A great example of a smart risk is when Nike decided to create its own line of athletic shoes in the 1970s. At the time, Nike was a small company that primarily sold other brands of athletic shoes. However, the company saw an opportunity to create its own line of high-quality shoes and took the risk of investing in research and development. This risk paid off, and today Nike is a global leader in the athletic shoe market.

  • Foolish risks are impulsive and reckless.

On the other hand, foolish risks are taken without proper consideration of the potential consequences. These risks are often impulsive and driven by emotions, rather than a clear strategy or goal. A prime example of a foolish risk is when Kodak decided to ignore the shift to digital photography in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kodak was a dominant player in the film photography market, but rather than adapt to the changing market and take the risk of investing in digital technology, the company stuck to its traditional business model. This risk ultimately proved to be foolish, and Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

  • Smart risks involve research and preparation.

Smart risks involve thorough research and preparation to ensure that they are well thought-out and have a high likelihood of success. This includes gathering data, analyzing market trends, and seeking the advice of experts. A great example of this is when Starbucks decided to expand internationally in the 1990s. The company did extensive research on the cultural differences and preferences of its target markets and prepared customized menus and marketing strategies for each region. This risk paid off, and Starbucks is now a global brand with locations in more than 80 countries.

  • Foolish risks ignore potential consequences.

Foolish risks often ignore the potential consequences and are driven by greed or a desire for quick profits. This can lead to disastrous outcomes, as was the case with Enron. In the late 1990s, the energy company engaged in risky financial practices and ignored the potential consequences, leading to its collapse in 2001. The scandal resulted in the loss of billions of dollars and the loss of trust from investors and the public.

In conclusion, risk is an essential part of business, but it is important to differentiate between smart and foolish risks. Smart risks are well-thought-out and calculated, while foolish risks are impulsive and reckless. By thoroughly researching and preparing for risks, businesses can increase their chances of success and avoid costly mistakes. As the examples of Nike, Kodak, Starbucks, and Enron demonstrate, the difference between smart and foolish risks can have a significant impact on a business’s success or failure.

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Memarzadeh Ali

Always on the lookout for new knowledge and experiences. Sharing my discoveries and thoughts on all kinds of topics on my Twitter feed. @Arnaultmemarza1