Failure as a Necessary Component of Innovation and Breakthroughs

In most organizations failure is implicitly, sometimes explicitly, understood to be career limiting.



Regardless of the rhetoric, and I have heard loads of it over the years of working with senior executives. They will say things like: "it OK to fail around here"; "we value failure as evidence of pushing the envelope"; "no success without failure" and so on. The truth is failure is not acceptable in most organizations.
Now if we distinguish between carelessness and failure we may have an opening for a new freedom to invent, create, discover, and take responsible risks - and in the process make major advances, even breakthroughs.
Carelessness I distinguish as not paying sufficient attention in performing in task that has a proven and established process or methodology to ensure the desired outcome. This thoughtlessness in executing a step or missing a step means that the desired outcome is not produced. And, in all likelihood what is produced has unwanted consequences.
Failure on the other hand is the consequence of trying to produce an outcome where there is no clear path or process. Where there is no precedent for a successful outcome. 
In every set of accountabilities there should be a component that requires invention, experimentation, and discover so as to produce a new level of performance. People cannot be free to be fully expressed in this area of their accountabilities if failure is taboo. Innovation and creativity will be stifled.

Posted by Peter Roche





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