I have had several great experiences recently related to “failing fast” in our firm. It made me really proud of our team, so I thought I would share my perspective.
Mediocre organizations don’t fail fast. In fact, people who work for “mediocre organizations” spend their time doing CYA activities to ensure they survive another day. These companies gradually diminish in value due to an inability to look in the mirror.
Leading firms realize that innovation has two cousins, success and failure. With success, we accelerate how we learn about what worked, so we can incrementally improve our services, products and relationships. Our goal is to listen, learn and improve. It is not about packaging a great result and trying to get maximum credit.
When we understand “how” success happens, we can repeat it or improve it. When we beat our chest, all we do is…..well, beat our chest.
Successful firms also know how to deal with failure. The greatest athletes fail constantly and they see each failure as a window into how they can improve for next time. It is why each team for the recent Super Bowl (Ravens vs 49ers, fyi Justin Tucker who kicks for the Ravens is from our high school, but I digress) studies film endlessly. They look for flaws and study weakness to improve.
In our firm, we also fail on a continual basis. We may not make a deadline or we don’t create the right team or we don’t give a project 100% of our focus or we try something new and it doesn’t work. We’re human.
The key is that we recognize the failure and figure out how we can improve. What led to the missed deadline that we can fix? Why did we not build the best team? Why were we not able to give 100% and what do we do about it? What did we learn from the failure of our new project?
Each of these examples recently occurred and we became stronger from each one, collectively and individually.
A continually learning culture celebrates success and failure.
We are transparent and ready to say “Here is how I failed, this is what I learned, and this is how I will improve”
I worked for two CEOs in the last decade who demanded that you always admit what didn’t work proactively and figure out how to fix it. If you went in to see them, explained how you were wrong on a topic and what you would now do, as a result, you were in great shape. If you tried to spin a failure, you got your butt kicked and learned never to do that again.
They did this for a very simple reason. They didn’t have time to waste and they were on a mission to be the best.
We are on the same journey. Let’s all commit to each other to be brave in how we share success and how we share failure to make our teams and our companies the best in industry. Next time a failure happens, let’s make sure we learn from it and we create an environment within our team or our firm where we can all improve….everytime.
All the best, Bob
PS/This is why I dislike case studies. They are always positive. If they were real, we would also talk about what we learned, what didn’t go well along with what went right. We all know life is not perfect, so the value of case studies, as they are done today, is next to zero. The value with full candor can lead to a next practice that creates advantage for a brand or company. Big difference.