Business2Community just published my article “A Look In The Mirror: Learning From Failure” yesterday. In the article I describe how organizations need to address their failures instead of running from them if they are truly going to learn. I suggested that an organization’s HR function can act as a catalyst in addressing failures by creating an opportunity to share the lessons learned with the entire organization. One way that an organization can start building in a tolerance for failure is by having their own Failure Forums where they address each failure with three questions: 1) What did the team accomplish?, 2) What did the team learn?, and 3) What would they have done differently? If every organization would embrace failure in this way I guarantee that we would see a significant improvement in innovation by reducing our fear of failure.
Most business professionals who rise to the senior ranks of an organization do so because they are extremely driven and frequently very bright. And while personal drive and intelligence are what got them to this point in their career it is often times not sufficient to succeed at this level. One area that I have witnessed many leaders stumble is when their expectations don’t match the realities of their organization and their striving for excellence outpaces their team’s ability to delivery satisfactory.
There are few organizations in the world that better understand the importance of learning from our failures than the United States Armed Forces. In fact, every branch of the US military uses an After Action Review (AAR) process to analyze the successes or failures of their missions by examining what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better next time. The AAR is focused on creating a clear comparison of what were the intended results vs. the actual results.
Last June marked the fifteenth year since I graduated from b-school at the Carlson School of Management. Over the summer I had been asked by the school to do an interview and answer a few questions looking back on my experience. I had recently published a blog post on “Three Things I Learned in B-school” that focused on the lessons that had followed me throughout my career but as I prepared for this interview I was thinking more about how much had changed in the world since I had graduate. I was quickly blown away with my quick list of changes that I had written down: medical discoveries, the Internet explosion, software development, redefining business and leadership theories, and the advances in telecommunications to name just a few.
Carlson School of Management – Live MBA Case Competition
So I thought I would take a break on this post from my usual topics of failure or innovation and instead focus on a lesson in leadership and philosophy. Last week Alan Wurtzel wrote an insightful post titled “What Circuit City Learned about Valuing Employees” for the HBR Blog. The article describes how important it is to respect your employees and give them the opportunity to grow. For the first 50 years this was a core value at Circuit City but by 2000 the company’s executives had all but eviscerated that belief and by the end of 2009 Circuit City was gone. As I read this article I kept thinking that these were some very important lessons to be learned for every retailer, especially Circuit City’s last remaining true competitor, Best Buy.
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