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Will CEOs really learn any lessons from the failures of their peers?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I’m doubtful, but hopeful.

Bob Hill over at crafted a list of 10 lessons every CEO can learn from Fortune 500’s biggest losers.

I agree with Bob. There are lessons to be learned. However, I added:

And what, perhaps, is the biggest lesson of all? If you are F500 don’t worry about all of the above. If you screw things up royally, rest assured that (one way or another) Uncle Sam will bail you out.

Bob, I wish I could believe that CEOs will actually learn from the mistakes of their peers, but history has proven this to be largely untrue. And with a Federal government so willing to prop up institutions in our faux free market economy, what, precisely, is the incentive to genuinely succeed? Companies such as AIG and CITI have demonstrated that even catastrophic failure is rewarded handsomely.

Until the penalties outweigh the incentives, we are unlikely to see genuine change in any industry.

Take, for example, finance, health care and pharmaceuticals. What is the incentive to do the right thing for investors/patients/consumers when the penalties pale in comparison to the anticipated profits? The answer is: none.

Still, Bob’s list is worth reading for those of you who care. Join the conversation over at

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