Fail well


We’ve all heard some version of the mantra, “Only through failure can you discover greatness.” I must admit, this sounds more ideological than practical. But it must be true, right?

We study Elon Musk’s failures in search of ways to re-invent or re-imagine ideas. We attend things like Failure:Lab to learn from others’ mistakes as we inch our way to the next big thing. And, unless your company has practices in place to celebrate and support failure, this idea becomes something that only lives in strategic documents, not something that is felt in the day-to-day activities of employees.

Failing, without sinking the ship, doesn’t happen accidently. Companies that do this well have systems and structures in place to carve out space for flops. Here are a few tips you can steal in creating a culture that embraces failure:

Change your metrics

You are what you eat, right? Well, kind of. If we only measure and incentivize productivity and efficiency, we aren’t creating an environment conducive to risk taking. Incorporate a new metric — hold team members accountable for trying a new approach to one of their tasks in each quarter. Make it simple, make it easy and see what happens.

Fail fast

Steve Jobs famously said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." And it's a skill that requires practice. Hold monthly meetings to kill ideas. Don’t just reprioritize the ideas that are floundering, kill them. Fail fast and stay focused on the ideas that really matter.

Host idea funerals

I realize this may sound a little extreme — but treat dead ideas as a way to celebrate what was learned along the way. Use this time to acknowledge the people that created the idea and the person who ultimately killed it, as well. Treat this time more like a wake; enjoy music and food and allow team members to bond over their failure.

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