Celebrate Your Failures!

A recent article in Strategy + Business asks: Are You killing enough ideas? It asks this because, chances are, you’re not. You’re probably wondering how that can be when your number one chance to emerge victorious from a downturn is to innovate. Well, the answer is that you need to kill losing ideas, or at least those ideas that don’t have any support, and do so quickly to free up the supporting resources for those ideas that look like winners that you can get most of the organization behind. You also need to put them in their final resting place so that you can do a post mortem, identify lessons learned, and share that knowledge throughout your organization so that you don’t make the same mistakes when trying to implement those ideas that you expect to be winners.

However, you won’t be able to do this if you don’t celebrate your failures. If your organization treats failure as something that is to be swept under the rug and never discussed again, you’re not going to learn anything — ever — because no one else in your organization will ever know what won’t work, why, and how to avoid making the same mistake again … and someone else will eventually repeat the mistake. The perception that winners don’t fail is false. The difference between a market leader and a market follower is that a market leader doesn’t fail publicly. Internally, they fail multiple times because they are always taking risks and trying new things before their competition. Some of their efforts don’t pan out, but they don’t hide the fact from their employees … they analyze what went wrong, why, learn from it, and correct it in the next attempt. Then they succeed and grab market share from their competitors who aren’t willing to learn from their mistakes, and who are thus doomed to repeat them.

So celebrate your failures … because if you do so, you’ll probably find that, over time, you have fewer and fewer and that, in the market, you do better and better. After all, it’s not a failure if you learn something and use that knowledge to do something else that helps you conquer the market!

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