Why are we obsessed with failure?

One scary statistic is that 70% of change initiatives fail. An overwhelming proportion of new product launches fail. Most new businesses fail. The sad fact is that failure is all around us. Is this why so many organizations talk about a fear of failure being one of their major innovation stumbling blocks?

And, so what mantra do many innovation and growth gurus expound as a solution?

“We need to fail fast.”

“We need to fail forward.”

“We need to fail smart.”

So, the solution most innovation consultancies put forward to organizations already coping with the wide ranging effects of failure, is to tell their employees that they need to fail more.

Say what?

If you can’t tell already, I really hate the whole fail fast mantra. Can we kill it yet?

You don’t want to fail fast, you want to learn fast.

And so, if you switch to learning fast instead, the efforts of your employees should then become laser focused on identifying what you need to learn with each iteration, or each experiment.

And your focus should also then become all about how well you are instrumenting for the learning you are trying to achieve.

This is more consistent with failing forward, but WE ARE NOT FOCUSED ON FAILURE.

Focusing on failure, leads to failure. Failure becomes the expected outcome.

Instead, we are focused on learning fast, and we can learn equally well from success as we can from failure – if our learning instrumentation is good.

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The way that you achieve success in change AND in innovation, is by working hard to move the potential causes of failure farther forward in the innovation or change project lifecycle so that you have an opportunity to either design the flaws or obstacles out, or communicate them out by forcing the tough conversations during your planning process (for change or innovation) — this comes before you even begin executing your plan.

You’ve got to surface the sources of resistance, the faulty assumptions, and the barriers to be overcome — early.

Then we build a plan focused not on quick wins, but on maintaining transparency and momentum throughout the change implementation.

You may have noticed that I use the terms innovation and change almost interchangeably (often in the same sentence). This is because innovation is all about change, and because many of the barriers to change inside organizations are the same barriers that innovators face.

As an answer to these challenges, I created the Change Planning Toolkit™ to help organizations beat the 70% change failure rate by providing a suite of tools that allow change leaders to make a more visual, collaborative approach to change efforts. At the center of the approach sits the Change Planning Canvas™, very visual, very collaborative ala Lean Startup to help you prototype and evolve your change approach before you ever begin. The toolkit comes with a QuickStart Guide and my latest book Charting Change was designed to ground people in the philosophies that will help them succeed with both little C change efforts (projects) and big C change efforts (digital transformations, mergers, acquisitions, INNOVATION, etc.).

So, stop bringing more failure into your organization, and instead bring the tools into your organization that will help you achieve more success!

 

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