Failure And Innovation: How To Learn From Your Mistakes In Business

It’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s how often you get up


It’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s how often you get up. Or maybe you prefer talking about doors, and the way one always opens when another one closes. Regardless of how you choose to word it, and despite the cheesiness, the countless clichés about dealing with failure are all true

Mistakes happen, all you can do is learn from them. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, especially in the business world.

Even though all companies make them at one time or another, they’re hard to acknowledge as individuals. In the pursuit of success, we often gloss over issues to focus, instead, on the positives.

But as a leader, accepting your own failures – and those of others – is the best way of fostering a culture of innovation within your workplace. After all, if people are unwilling to take a risk for fear of mucking up, how will progress happen?

Experimenting for success

It’s something Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, understands all too well. Without daring to take action, many of its biggest accomplishments would never have come about. Neither would some of its let-downs, like the Fire phone, but it’s the attitude towards those mistakes that sets Amazon apart:

'One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure. I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it's going to work, it's not an experiment.'

Changing attitudes to failure

So how do you translate such an optimistic and accepting attitude towards failure to your own workplace? Here are our top tips for building an innovative culture, with a team of employees who aren’t scared to be adventurous.

#1: Trust yourself first

If you know that you can handle any situation, good or bad, you’ll feel much happier about encouraging risk taking. Build that confidence by undertaking an accredited course in leadership.

There are lots of distance learning Masters on offer, from specific industry-related choices like data centre management to more general business leadership options.

#2: Lead by example

One in three employees don’t trust their boss, according to Edelman, and that’s a sure-fire way of killing innovation. Be honest about your own shortcomings to create an environment where open and frank discussion of mistakes is acceptable and welcomed.

#3: Control the fallout

One of your biggest responsibilities is controlling the fallout of a massive failure, particularly in regards to its damaging effect on office morale.

Never play the blame game. It’ll destroy a collaborative atmosphere, and quickly prevent people from being honest about their progress (or lack thereof).

#4: A learning tool

Always take the time to fully investigate the reasons behind a failure. Ask for the opinions of everyone who was involved with the project before sharing the results with the entire team.

Then, turn the mistake into a useful learning tool by making it a group exercise to identify improvements which could have been made.

#5: Celebrate successes

Finally, always acknowledge successes, big or small. Positive encouragement along the way is a great motivator and lets everyone know that their hard work is appreciated.

It can be as small as an email shout out or as big as a work night out, just make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate good news.

There you have it, five steps and actions that’ll let you lead an innovative team – one that dares to be bold and take risks.

New thinking small

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