We are constantly bombarded with the latest “innovation” stories from Silicon Valley tech startups. Almost never do we hear the stories of amazingly innovative non-profits – but trust me they do exist. As in business, sometimes innovation initiatives succeed but sometimes they miss the mark. How organizations chose to accept and learn from those failures can dramatically influence their future success. They are not just attempting to launch new initiatives, they are creating a culture of innovation.
So everyone is talking about the importance of “transparency” in business these days – customer transparency, financial transparency, even radical transparency. Do you think you organization is open and transparent? Maybe your company uses social media to continually engage your constituents in every possible social media vehicle or maybe your CMO has been a little “overly transparent” when on more than one occasion he shared a corporate secret via his new blog. Sure you’ll talk about your wins, your new strategy, or your latest promotions but have you ever been transparent with your failures? Have you ever published an annual report that detailed your failed initiatives and the failures in your operations?
A friend and former colleague who knows of my interest and passion for better understanding failure had forwarded a link to me a few months back for www.admittingfailure.com. The site is hosted by Ashley Good from the group Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWBC). Ashley launched the site in January 2011 as part of a growing movement in bringing transparency to failures in the international development sphere. The people working in the non-profit sector are not much different to those working in for-profit businesses when it comes to failure. A statement from the site notes that “The development community is failing…to learn from failure. Instead of recognizing these experiences as learning opportunities, we hide them away out of fear and embarrassment.”
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