Aim for the sky, that way you’ll fall in the cloud. Senior Consultant, Becky Oliver, asks is there really a safety net and if there is, how do you create one?
It’s such a cliché thing to say, but is it true? If you push all boundaries and go where no one has gone before, will it all work out ok? Let’s consider both yes and no.
YES: Let’s take the example of Superglue. In 1942, Dr. Harry Coover and his team were trying to create a clear plastic to make a part for handheld guns. Whilst experimenting, he found certain chemicals reacted in a way that made things bond together. To him, this was a failure, so he parked the new substance…FOR 6 YEARS. Whilst working on another project, he realised there may be another use for this substance and so Superglue was born! Being innovative, allowing free thinking, trialling ideas and doing things that haven’t been done before are all ways to learn…even if it fails.
NO: When searching for ‘big product fails’ the top result is the Ford Edsel. A car deemed by customers as unattractive, overpriced, and overhyped. Ford developed the Edsel to be ‘ahead of its time’, but it just didn’t stick. Falling in the clouds can only be achieved when we aim high, however, sometimes the change or innovation WILL fail…and maybe some should. A colleague of mine who runs large programmes always said to me ‘projects fail and should fail, especially if we are pushing change and progress hard enough’. Reality television judge and entrepreneur, Simon Cowell lost everything at aged 32, but that didn’t stop him taking his failure, learning from it and making himself and his business a success.
So how do you push the boundaries and put in place a safety net to catch you from falling? Here are some ways to always achieve a benefit, even from a fail:
– Be really clear on what you’re aiming for and what the minimum result needs to be.
– Continually review your success measures and evaluate your performance, progress and position against them.
– ‘Two minds are better than one’ so collaborate.
– Contingency plan or, in business talk, have a risk document that is continually reviewed.
– Know when to STOP! If a project is failing recognise it and invest time and resource.
– See the positives and stay positive, you are the way you think.
– If you fail, it maybe you’re ahead of your time. Keep it in your box of tricks and be ready to go back to it if the environment changes.
Don’t be afraid. Sometimes we need to seek forgiveness rather than asking for permission to do something outside the box. Go for it! Ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?!’