Success and Risk Adverse

LinkedIn AI today is highly risk-averse, and part of my commitment is to create a culture that encourage teams to understand how to undertake and get inspired to take on more risky initiatives. Nearly all AI team projects and initiatives at the moment are short-term focused with a very high likelihood of success. Over the years, this conservative investment culture has caused our organization to lag behind the industry in AI investment to the extent that the majority of our investments are slightly behind the state-of-the-art (SOTA).

This phenomenon, however, is not unique to LinkedIn and its AI organization. Generally, as companies and their organizations become more successful, they also become more risk-averse. This week, I listened to an interview with Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) at Stanford Business School, where he discussed the challenges of innovation in a large company and how Google, as a highly successful entity, has become more risk-averse.

There are many reasons why this shift occurs. Similar to other cultural shifts, it takes years to manifest, and often, the change is not immediately apparent to those within the organization or the company. Over time, incentives evolve to focus more on impact and metrics, which are easier to measure. Many projects are built on existing ones to ensure quicker implementation and to capture low-hanging fruits. Ego also plays a significant role; it obscures leaders’ views of their weaknesses and how they compare to others. Ego, in particular, is a difficult concept for many insiders and long-term employees to understand, but it often becomes the main obstacle to progress. As a side note, I would recommend reading the book ‘Ego Free Leadership‘ to gain more insights into this issue.