How smart will your failures be this week?©

My big sister, when I used to call her crying over some huge failure I thought I had just experienced used to tell me, “It’s a million-dollar day, Lynda!”  I wanted to hurt her.  She was trying to get me to see that the lesson I just learned was going to make me a million dollars one day.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Blah, blah, blah, right?  We all know that things can not always work out.  Yes, we know it intellectually, but do we embrace failure in ourselves?  Do we encourage others to fail?  Do we really lead our teams by looking at it’s members and saying, “If no one is failing then no one is probably trying anything new.”   After all, like Edison found, the faster you fail the sooner you find the right answer or solution.

Failure due to laziness, lack of accountability and effort or just being sloppy and uncommitted is not what I am talking about here.

I’m talking about innovation which can not happen without failure.  If you’re not willing to risk you are not going to innovate.  Lack of innovation is going to be the real failure for many organizations in the coming years.

In the article, Why you should encourage failure in the workplace, they explain why failure is necessary in today’s organizations:

  1. Encouraging risk-taking appears to top talent
  2. Risky behavior can yield huge success
  3. Mistakes are great learning tools

In Harvard Business Review’s article, To Increase Innovation, Take the Sting Out of Failure, Doug Sundheim suggests the following questions to help you and your team define if something was a smart failure in order to determine the right and wrong way to fail:

  1. What makes a failure smart in our organization?
  2. What makes a failure dumb?
  3. What guidelines, approaches, or processes characterize smart risk taking?
  4. What clear examples can we point to, to demonstrate smart failures?

How will you reward smart failures on your team or in your organization this year?  Will you only reward successes or can you create a “Dare to Try Award” which would go to the most thoughtful and well-executed failures?

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