The Three Types of Takers

I have heard it said that there are 3 kinds of people making up your organization: risk takers, caretakers and undertakers. These three types of folks definitely exist out there, and their approach to dealing with people and projects can have an impact on your team and your project’s success. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types and see which ones sound familiar.

Risk takers like to take a chance based on their ideas and dreams, advocating for changes both large and small. A recent Forbes article by Katy Finneran looks at exactly this, profiling numerous risk takers such as Elon Musk, 38, the co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors and founder of SpaceX.  When Musk started SpaceX, dedicated to reducing the cost and increasing the reliability of space missions, he had no experience in the aerospace industry. According to Finneran, SpaceX is off to the space races, so to speak

Caretakers do not like to take risks and play it safe, focusing more on the care and feeding of the status quo and the way we do things around here. Remember Akio Morita and Sony way back when?  According to Adam Hartung in his article titled “Innovation Killers – The Status Quo Police”, Sony was a great innovator that brought us hundreds of innovative products. After Morita left the top spot in the company, Sony is no longer the #1 electronics innovator in the world.

Undertakers are the folks that are waiting to bury those that take the risks and fail. Ouch. I was looking through some of my old files and found a Polaroid picture from long ago.  Now there is a company who didn’t take the risk to go digital and got buried anyway.

While I think folks and outcomes span a wider range of roles than this trio, this “three takers” view makes a valuable point about the people and politics in any organization.  Some aspects of human nature do tend to creep into the workplace.  Interestingly enough, those aspects of an organization are what make me like it so very much – the range of people, personalities and abilities that we find there.  It is nice to know that there is room in most organizations for the status quo and ongoing “care and feeding” of the caretaker as well as the innovation and creativity of the risk taker.  The undertakers are a bit more problematic.

I imagine if we look back on our previous jobs and the folks we worked with, we will see a large number of risk takers advocating change for small things as well as large things.

Happy 2014!  It’s great to be here kicking off another year as part of the Learning Tree team.

Susan Weese


Finneran, Katy, “The Greatest Risk They Ever Took” Retrieved from

Hartung, Adam, “Innovation Killers – The Status Quo Police” Retrieved from

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