Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It is okay to fail...

Let me begin by asking few questions?

-How important do people in your organization see innovation to be in their day-to-day jobs?
-How well is your organization recognizing and exploiting the diversity of its people's talent?
-To what degree does senior management encourage innovation by demonstrating that- 'it is okay to fail'?

We see organizations struggling to create a sustainable culture of innovation. We know that mistakes and failures are a critical part of the innovation process, but what is required is an attitude towards acceptance of failure.

Try to create a culture that encourages experimentation. A culture that encourages enough experimentation so that there is a failure. Reward the practical experiments whose failure leads to new learning and other experiments. That’s where innovation grows!.....the more people are contributing, the more people are trying.

The most important thing is not an immediate success, but whether people are producing some results focused on innovation.

Better yet? Make sure that there is discipline in the organization to learn from unsuccessful attempts. Ask, what did we learn? What should we do differently? What else should we try?... An attitude of 'trail and learning’ is required, not that of '‘trail and error’.

What’s critical is to understand that the radical innovation is different from the incremental innovation.
So, if you want incremental improvements, reward only successful innovation; but if you want radical improvements, reward innovation efforts, regardless of their success or failures.

At the same time we need to make sure that nobody’s learning the wrong lesson:
-The correct lesson? --It is important to try new things?
-The wrong lesson?-- If you fail, you will have a bad performance review.

The important thing is to fail wisely – Let me share few examples from Apple Inc- the Macintosh was born from the wreckage of the Lisa-an earlier product that flopped; the I-phone is a response to the failure of Apple’s original music phone, produced in conjunction with the Motorola. Both times Apple learned from the mistake and tried again.

The wider lesson is not to stigmatize failure but to tolerate it and learn from it.

How about asking these two questions in performance reviews of all employees:
-How did you contribute to successful innovation in the organization?
-What were some of the new things you tried that didn’t work out?
The challenge for any corporation is to ensure a sustainable culture of innovation, wherein every member of the team is participative in the process.It goes beyond making PowerPoint presentation and deriving 'brownie' points. It requires serious commitment from the leadership team over a long period of time. It begins with an attitude that 'it is okay to fail'.

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