Last year I began writing an online column for Pollen titled Facing Failure as an effort to spark a discussion on the importance of failure in driving innovation in the non-profit, education, and government sectors. Most of us would prefer to avoid failure and the pain that it can cause but to truly create something new mistakes will need to be made along the way. In politics, a “failed” initiative can quickly sabotage a political career which is why most politicians are quick to dismiss or gloss over their shortcomings. But there are some politicians are trying to reframe the discussion with candor and transparency. I am excited to share my recent interview with one such politician, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Most leaders want their organizations to be innovative but just saying it isn’t enough. If they want their people to take risks and innovate they have to create a culture that can support and endure the ups and the downs of driving innovation. Driving sustained innovation requires the right people, processes, & tools.
As a follow up to my post last year about how we need to “learn to tolerate failure… even in the medical profession” I wanted to share this TEDx presentation (Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?) from Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD). In it Dr. Goldman captures perfectly the flawed logic of how we all try to portray perfection in our work, especially those god like creates called doctors. In business our failures can cost money or even jobs but in medicine our failures can cost lives. And not just the life of patient who suffered from the original error but the lives of other patients based on the repetition of that same error because it is never shared and thus never learned from.
I will admit that I definitely have earned the moniker of “The Failure Guy” with my incessant ramblings on the topic of failure: our fear of it, the importance of learning from it, and the necessity of preparing for it. So I wasn’t surprised when a friend had forwarded me a LinkedIn post titled “The PreMortem: Preventing Failure Before You Fail.” To be honest I had read the article and thought that it sounded quite ridiculous; the idea that we could simply avoid failure by just preparing more for it seemed tragically flawed. How much preparation would be required to completely prevent failure on a project of any reasonable complexity?
In early 2007 I was planning to launch my first Failure Forum. The forums were a series of presentations (modeled after TED talks) with an ensuing discussion that were meant to examine internal innovation projects that had been shut down. We sought to understand what had been accomplished with the project, what had we learned from it, and what would we do differently next time. The truth was that many of the innovation projects were modeled after previous work.
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