Failure And Feedback

One topic that’s near and dear to me is innovation.

Innovation and Evaluation

(Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Throughout my time in business the issue of how to do or produce something in a new, better way has always been front and center.  That’s why when I read that the Economist Intelligence Unit had conducted a survey of senior executives to explore the characteristics of companies that are adept at promoting innovation, I checked it out.  You can read the entire study here.  The study was sponsored by the Oracle folks, and not surprisingly it found that most companies struggle with innovation. The report says it’s really hard  to keep coming up with new ideas, particularly ones that people will pay for.  I know what you’re thinking – any of us could have told them that without a lot of research!  It’s what follows that I find of interest.

It turns out that the most innovative companies not only permit failure, but welcome and harness it to come up with more successful ideas. Yet nearly half of the respondents to the survey  say their companies have no system in place that helps them learn from failures.   Highly innovative companies also actively gather feedback and ideas from everywhere they can. Fifty-four percent of the top innovators they surveyed said they pour over customer comments, whether gathered in direct interviews or on social networks, and scrutinize customer data for clues to effective future innovations. They recognize that collecting many ideas is the first step to identifying the great ones.

There’s quite a bit more in the study but those two points are of most interest.  How many of us can truthfully say we work in an environment where failure is welcomed much less have a system in place from which to learn from those failures?  Nearly half (49%) of the companies in the study said their company had no system to deal positively with failure. Among companies that do have such a system (38%), redeploying employees involved in a failed innovation from one business unit to another has been a successful strategy.  Contrast that with the reports we read each day of companies jettisoning employees or products rather than making a pivot of some sort.

We’ve touched on the notion of feedback quite often here on the screed.  I’m a believer that a company can never have enough and we ought to look at every opportunity to get it.  The study confirms this as a key to innovation.

Help your folks to be free to fail.  Encourage them to get feedback in great quantity and with increasing frequency.  Do so and you’re well down the road to innovation, which becomes more important each day.   Make sense?

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