Does your organization have FOGO?

By Marcus Coetzee, 25 August 2020.

Now that the lockdown in South Africa has started to lift, I’m noticing how many people are struggling with FOGO – an acronym for ‘Fear of Going Out’. 

FOGO appears to be present among several of my anxious friends and family members. They’ve expressed their reluctance to leave home until next year, even though we all follow the recommended health guidelines, and it’s currently only August.

They have established a cocoon of safety during lockdown, and are anxious about venturing out and confronting the turbulent world that awaits them.

This tendency seems to be the antithesis of FOMO, which we all know as the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

As an extrovert, who loves to get outside and be around people, I’ve struggled to come to terms with the concept of FOGO and to respect the choices of my friends. 

While reflecting on this matter, I realized that I know of organizations with FOGO. 

This is the theme of this article – how to recognize if your organization has FOGO, and how you can help it to step outside and continue with its mission. 

Lockdown created a safe space for organizations

During lockdown, many non-profit organizations and social enterprises had to retreat to a safe harbour. 

Many had to downsize, change how they work, renegotiate contracts with donors and customers and implement other strategies to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

While these changes were painful to implement, they have created a safe bubble that their organizations have become accustomed to. The question is whether it is now time for your organization to venture out, before the cost of staying inside becomes too great.

Symptoms of FOGO in organizations

I noticed the following traits in those organizations that I suspect have FOGO.

  1. Lack ambition and hope. Their vision has shrunk or lost some of its magnetism. They may have become more fatalistic and lost their sense of agency. They may have lost their focal point around which people can rally and continue fighting their cause.
  2. Shortage of innovation. They have reverted to their dogma and other inflexible beliefs. They’re finding it difficult to explore new ideas, when this is the perfect opportunity for innovation. Covid-19 has changed how we all do business. The world is ready for new approaches to solving problems.
  3. Low appetite for risk. They are playing it safe, to the extent that it prevents them from moving forward. They are unwilling to take risks that might benefit their organization.
  4. Lack of excitement and anticipation. They don’t have that feeling of enthusiasm or eagerness about the present moment or for an event on the horizon. 
  5. Hesitancy to hunt for new opportunities. They are holding back from searching for new donors, customers, philanthropic and business opportunities. They are scared of what they might find.
  6. Reluctance to recruit staff. They are hesitant to hunt for new team members to serve their strategy. They are worried that the costs will outweigh the benefits.
  7. Fear of reaching out and connecting to people. They are reluctant to disturb or intrude on others. They might feel that people will be inaccessible or unresponsive to what their organization has to offer.
  8. Feeling of anxiety. They have a general feeling of worry or malaise about the future, and the necessary suffering that they will need to embrace as they venture out.

What can you do to alleviate FOGO?

Take a moment to reflect and consider each of these symptoms and whether they are detrimental to your organization. If any of them are, then it’s time to acknowledge it and do something about it.

I suggest you start with revisiting your Vision, which is part of your organization philosophy. Create something that is appropriate for where your organization finds itself, while being inspiring and able to provide you with strategic direction.

As Michael Hyatt says in The Vision Driven Leader:

“Vision, as I see it, is a clear, inspiring, practical and attractive picture of your organization’s future. It doesn’t have to be ten or twenty years down the road, though that might be helpful. I’m talking about an imagined future – usually three to five years out – superior to the present, which motivates you, which guides day-to-day strategy and decision-making, and around which your team can rally.”

Once you’ve revisited your Vision, identify some small steps to move your organization forward. Realize that it must venture out of its safe harbour before it’s too late and it misses the tide. The cost of inaction may be irreversible. This unusual moment will come to an end, sooner rather than later, and we will all have to enter the uncertain world outside.


I asked my young assistant about whether she was experiencing any FOGO. She said that she wasn’t because her FOMO is greater than her FOGO. I like this sentiment. I think we should all consider this approach in our organizations. There are lots of opportunities to move our organizations forward, even while recovering from a pandemic. Let’s not miss out on them.

In pursuit of strategic clarity

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