Without question, it’s an era where big wins and gains in technology and innovation are highly celebrated, and rightfully so. There is nothing more exciting than the pace and progress of the market. Funding deals, exits, IPOs, great and pioneering products. It makes for an exciting time and certainly one worth celebrating.
However, there is no truer side of innovation and product or idea development than the occasional/possibility of failure. It’s not like you expect it to happen — and certainly nobody wants it to happen — but can happen and it is possible. It goes hand-in-hand with innovation in any organization, forever looming at the door. In a promising and progressive market, it can be frowned upon and highly criticized. But failure is a very real and realistic part of the innovative and development process — and it can have great benefit to your company regardless of stage or size.
In fact, having the right mindset about failure can help a company better recover from it, and even leverage it for the greater good of its business, services or products. It can aid in keeping the costs associated with failed ideas and efforts lower, and even streamline the failure process. The key is to have a good approach toward handling and managing failure at the start, and plan in place for when or if a loss might come.
Recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn, and that even with the best, most well thought out plans and processes there is a risk for it. There are always variables, things that could not have ever been seen or anticipated. Even with the smartest, most experienced teams, the best resources, etc. failure can still come knocking at the door. That doesn’t mean you want to invite failure into the mix — but knowing it may arrive at any point can be a crucial step towards moving on if it does and minimizing the risk of the potential impact.
It’s also important to have a format in place for identifying and reporting problems early on. In this aspect, leadership and management teams need to constantly lead by example in creating an environment where employees feel safe bringing up issues the minute they’re spotted. What you don’t want to have happen is someone in the company fear failure to the point that they try to solve it themselves and hide the problem. Create a format and culture where failure isn’t wanted, but is understood, and that employees should immediately bring issues to the management or leadership team so that the collective group can set a plan towards fixing the problem.
Which brings up the last and likely the most important part of the failure process: It’s always most important to first recover from a loss more than anything else. Immediate action to do so can minimize cost and downtime. Once the problem is fixed or near fixed, that’s when you can take a step back and triage or determine what went wrong, how you can learn from it or benefit from it moving forward once the immediate danger of the problem is solved.
It can also be helpful to have a communications plan or protocol in place for dealing with failure in your industry or market. And most of all, don’t forget that failure doesn’t just happen in the technology department but can in every corner of the organization. It is part of taking risk. Be sure to implement the above with each silo at your company, and encourage leadership and management to constantly manage and lead failure by example.
While failure is never fun, and can hurt the business in the short-term, it’s important to remember that some of the most outstanding and successful ideas in our world were failed upon many, many times before seeing the ultimate value they would later become. It doesn’t mean failure should or needs to be encouraged, but like anything else in life, sometimes we fall and when we do, we need to get back up.