How do you build a culture that embraces Intelligent Failure (IF) to drive Increasing Success (IS)? Well, last week I attended The CMO Club Innovation Summit in NYC to speak on a panel about digital marketing – great event and great conversations. Innovation was top of mind which led to a lot of discussion about Intelligent Failure or IF and how that can lead to Increasing Success or IS. Here is my view on how to create a culture of IF to IS.
Intelligent Failure or IF means enabling your organization to “fail” in an acceptable manner. IF requires you to culturally embrace that the only real failure is a failure to learn and/or a failure to apply what you learned to other ideas. Iteration is a key component of IF. Iterating in smaller ways lets you quickly find blind spots, potential failure points as well as potential points of increased success. Whether you have an answer to these things or not is less important in IF than that you welcome the possibility to see them and work out a revised approach to your idea.
Increasing Success or IS occurs when your organization makes the concept of IF part of its DNA. IS happens because it becomes acceptable to share what was learned to save others from learning the same things the hard way. By embracing a culture of IF to IS, you empower people to come up with the best answers to things that would have otherwise led to failure or decreased success. IS is a result of faster innovation through leveraged learning and a culture of teamwork. This innovation also tends to cost less over time since you don’t have to spend money over and over for project teams to learn the same things the hard way.
A culture of IF to IS does not mean you cannot take on a “big bet” it just means you should break that big bet down into smaller pieces and apply the concepts of IF to the smaller pieces as well as the whole. IF to IS scales to everything from a personal project to a small company to a global organization.
As a leader, you have to set the tone of IF to IS for this to work. Putting IF to IS into your organizational culture means that as a leader you have to make a habit of asking people:
“What did you learn?”
“What would you do differently now that you know more?”
“What would you recommend to others facing similar situations?”
“What other projects do you think would benefit from what you’ve learned?”
Get in the habit of asking these questions for every project whether it met the original goals or not. Beginning with these simple questions and getting your organization in the habit of thinking this way and sharing the outcomes relieves the fear of failure. Fear of failure, which is really a fear of the consequences of failure, is the biggest deterrent to leveraging IF to get to Increasing Success or IS. So make these questions a habit, embrace the change and enjoy the success of IF to IS.