Matthew Broderick playing himself in a grown-up version of his celebrated role of Ferris Bueller to promote the 2012 Honda CR-V. (AP Photo/Honda Motor Co. Inc.)

In the 1980s classic movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Ferris says to his friend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” He’s referring to the craziness of everyday life and taking time to live in the moment and enjoy life. But this also applies to businesses.

Too many companies push forward at a hectic pace and make snap judgments on big decisions. In fact, firms often reward managers for making quick, automatic decisions. The faster the decision, the more we seem to admire leaders for showing initiative, taking charge, and getting things done. But sometimes they can get so caught up in the fast pace of business that they do not take the time to pause, reflect, and to consider the bigger picture.


Joyce E.A. Russell (University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business)

Most of us know the story of the tortoise and the hare (a very popular one here at the University of Maryland where our mascot is a diamondback terrapin and our rally cry is “Fear the Turtle.”) That same notion of taking your time (and I don’t mean being risk-averse) and developing a slower, more reflective strategy can actually be a good business decision. Not everyone will be the first-mover in a situation, nor should they be. There can be some good reasons for waiting and being second or a follower. One of those reasons is being able to learn from the mistakes of the front-runners. The longer you reflect, the more issues and criteria you have time to consider. You can evaluate multiple options or look at more competitive data before having to make choices that could be disastrous for your firm. You can develop a more purposeful or systematic strategy.

Sometimes, the best advice you may get from an outside consultant to your business is to stop, pause, and take some time to really think about what your firm represents (such as, what is its value proposition or brand?). Taking this time is difficult for us personally, professionally, and with our companies. And yet, it can really make the difference in our success for the long term.

Abraham Lincoln said “ Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Contemplation and preparation are essential for success. Not only should we personally take the time to pause in order to reflect, plan and prepare, but also we should ensure our business firms do the same.

Joyce E. A. Russell is the senior associate dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership, career management, and negotiations. She can be reached at jrussell@rhsmith.umd.edu.