Strategic Objective = FAIL FASTER (and care less)

Do you know what innovation, growth, progress and success all have in common? The precursor to all of them is FAILURE.

There is absolutely no way to achieve sustainable success without failure. We can certainly get lucky a few times and fall into success without failing but that is not tenable.

Human beings, by and large, are AFRAID OF FAILURE and we have to ask ourselves why. Really think about it and figure our why you avoid doing anything “risky”. I am not talking about risking your life for a cheap thrill, I am talking about the calculated risks it takes to learn new skills or test ideas, or speak up at a meeting when you are not sure your answer is “right”. What prevents us from taking action?

The easy answer is FEAR and that would be correct but the deeper question is, “Fear of what?” I believe that we are scared of what others might think of us if we fail. That it will somehow tarnish the image we have of ourselves and make us less important and/or more human. Ironically, failing is what makes us human.

Remember that it is only risky if you are willing to “lose” something that you value…like your image as a leader who is always right. When is the last time you took a truly innovative approach and there was a genuine risk of failure? When was the last time a potential outcome was that you stood there with egg on your face while other’s giggled? Is that the fear that prevents you from leading effectively? What message do you think this sends to those in your charge? How you can demand that others innovate and learn when you will not?

Being successful can be the death knell of your willingness to be innovative. Once you taste success, then you begin to develop a confidence that you know how to do things and are smart and insightful. This is the first step in the closing of your mind so beware. The minute someone comes up to you and begins telling you about a problem they are experiencing and you tell them the solution without asking any questions is the exact moment you become a HUGE LIABILITY to your team.

Here are a few ideas to avoid succumbing to your own hubris:

  • Show people how to innovate, learn and grow…don’t tell them. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
  • Be vulnerable and care less about being right and more about getting it right.
  • Seek out (genuine) criticism and respond to it in a positive manner. Don’t excuse your behavior, change it. Remember that if it doesn’t sting a bit then it not’s helping you grow.
  • Never solve someone else’s problem without asking a minimum of 5 questions that focus on them and not the issue. If you ask them about the problem, you hi-jack the conversation.
  • Remember this is their problem which means they need to create their own solution because the way you would solve may not work for them.
  • Read voraciously. Seek out new ideas that make you think and also challenge you to change your mind. Great thinkers are likely to change their points of view once they have new information. The challenge is creating processes for yourself that ensures a steady flow of insights and information.
  • Spend at least 30% of your time investigating and learning from industries other than the one you’re in. Figure out where the early adopters work and follow those people and organizations so you can get a glimpse of what’s coming.
  • Most importantly, become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Understand that the pace of change will continue to accelerate and success in that environment requires both individuals and organizations to be agile and adaptive,

I believe Voltaire summed it up best when he said, “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainy is a ridiculous one.”