OK I enjoy the irony of this headline but I thought, ”why not?” you see there is a cultural divide in how different nations accept success and failure. Indeed, I would go as far to say that in some business cultures or nation states, using the “F” word above generates the same negative reaction as someone using, well, the other “F” word!
I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying – Michael Jordan
Openly diverse sub-cultures such as those found in design departments, software coding, research + development and also open national cultures such as those found in Scandinavia and USA almost encourage failure. In these environments failure is seen as a path towards to success and part of a normal development process. Other more conservative environments have a much lower tolerance to failure. Examples are an engineering process, service exchange business or on a national level like India, United Kingdom, Japan or China who often frown upon the experience of failure.
Why it is not black and white
For failure to be defined we see it often as a low point and an acknowledgement that the current, process, system, method, people, circumstances are simply not enabling success. There is often a stigma attached to failure where others are simply not willing to be associated with it – we see this in brand association when a celebrity goes through controversy an easy example here is the cyclist Lance Armstrong and his own founded charity distancing them from him after his admission of dope use in the Tour De France. We see this at the work place also, the “failed” salesman or the “low quality production worker”. These latter two examples ought to be addressed but the company, however when such stigma spreads into every area of the business, I question if this is truly the most optimal approach for a business to thrive.
If a business restricts behavior and limits risk then this process will stifle innovation. Almost by accident we see how a business is built upon success and part of those success stories are originated from how it adapted from a failure experience and then went on to provide unique solutions to the market through a better product or value added service experience such as the leading American retail store Macy’s.
So what does it mean to FAIL and be acceptable in a business environment? It stems from an attitude, to acknowledge that an incremental step is the path of the dinosaur business. Evolution has shown us that every now and again a genetic mutation occurs and thus a whole new species manages to take advantage of an environment and lead to new prosperity. These disruptive behaviors are the El Dorado in business hope. The disruptive changes are the moments that car manufacturers fear when seeing electric or hybrid technology. Click on the example here from FIAT when hearing that Apple and Google want to enter the car production business.
So how can you create a disruptive culture and change within your business? Try From Action I Learn FAIL. To embrace the path towards success and celebrate these achievements remains important but so is the new knowledge and skills learned from trying a new path and thus creating a platform opportunity to disrupt your market.
Its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates
Implementing the FAIL system.
Those already familiar with goal setting theory and users of SMART or SMARTER goal setting techniques will identify some close tied steps to the FAIL system. Through a review of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) you need to create time, resources and metrics to include failure within some areas of a unit’s contribution. These can be measured through breaking down the FAIL model as below.
Place, status and time definitions are foundation stones from the beginning. This sets the situational GPS coordinates of the business status and from these factors the journey can be measured and monitored.
Example “our current market knowledge of the cement supply chain to the construction industry in Java is zero as of March 1st 2015”.
This is the engine of progress. In the context of the FAIL system, your action should be deliberate with a purpose on the goal or agreed journey steps for the duration and budget levels attained.
The key first action step will be to address any internal company culture to allow and encourage more risk taking and thus provide the correct platform for the FAIL approach to flourish. Example: It can be shown via leadership behaviors reflecting this new cultural value and using in positive descriptive language and support.
I (person, team, department, business)
Define the stakeholders, drivers, influencer’s engaged in the FAIL system contact points. Each will have an important role to support actions and embrace the philosophy through being change agents, guardians, gatekeepers, promotor’s and resource or inspiring mentors.
This clear accountability step needs to be supported with the relevant level of empowerment given by leadership. It also engages the employee to understand deeper their responsibility and part in the process Example stage of skill development, knowledge understanding.
A minimal expectation outcome is a learning process from the steps taken and experienced. This can help develop new skills and knowledge however the retention of this information and skill growth is important. Where possible share the experiences across other areas of the business so increased efficiency areas can be identified and maximum benefits gained from the process. Your own business wiki is an ideal resource repository for such vital information.
With enough boldness and an embraced culture I see the FAIL system as integral to create a more flexible and engaged workforce. It can become a clear example in the change management process and allow a business to pivot its direction at a much more rapid pace due to new discovery and improved open culture.
Clear definitions do need to be made so FAILURE is not acceptable in other more critical areas of the business. The consequences of too high a risk in FAIL culture within the accounting department may prove a step too far when the business has not managed correctly its cash-flow and budget control.
These steps can help change the business culture and stimulate innovation, improved customer experiences and indeed a much higher engagement rate of employee’s. I encourage you to try the system at any scale within your business, department, team or personal approach and look forward to hearing from you with your outcomes. What is the worst that can happen? You FAIL!
For further reading and viewing I suggest take a peek at these sources on the themes:-
- Global cultural diversity at work: Globe Smart
- SMARTER goal setting definition and blog by JAMSO
- For more about disruptive innovation watch this video explained by thought leader Professor Clay Christensen with the Harvard business review (Video content complete in less than 8 minutes)
- An inspiring list of individuals and their short stories on how they moved from failure to success. Many familiar names are listed.
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