Last week I was in a golf tournament for my college fraternity Beta Theta Pi and had the pleasure of being grouped with several current students. After a few stories of debauchery and crazy antics from over twenty years ago we got on to the subject of careers. One of the students mentioned that he was majoring in Information Systems which also was my undergraduate degree. The discussion triggered a flashback of the amazing amount of discovery that seemed to be bombarding me at that time in my life. Looking back over my “career path” I now realize how I have continually struggled to maintain that extraordinary sense of discovery I felt then.
Last month consulting firm Accenture released a report (“Why Low-Risk Innovation Is Costly“) on the state of innovation at big companies from the U.S., U.K., and France. Their survey of 519 executives at large companies concluded that most were disappointed with the return on their innovation investment. Many of these companies cited that they were scaling back their disruptive innovation efforts and settling for more incremental innovation like product line extensions.
Last week I spent four days playing eight rounds of golf in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with 19 other guys. That is 144 holes in just over 96 hours. Before you ask the question the answer is yes! Yes, we are absolutely a little crazy! We are also equally passionate about the game of golf. Through this marathon of golf I noticed that something happened to us all when we are playing. On the golf course, just as in the office, we were adjusting to our environment and influencing each other’s behavior.
My article titled To Succeed in Business, Act Like a Child got published on The Washington Post – On Small Business Blog today. In the article I describe how if we want to encourage innovation in business we should follow the examples set by our children with their creativity, ambition, and fearlessness. As we get older we lose our tolerance for risk-taking and failure. We become conditioned to mitigate risks to preserve our wealth and egos. But there are ways that business leaders can promote risk-taking and failure: 1) intentionally hiring risk-takers, 2) creating policies that retain innovators, 3) purposely addressing risk-taking and failure, and 4) demonstrating transparency.
Last week I gave a presentation to a class of undergraduate students from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. The discussion was centered on the topic of failure and how the fear of business failure is relative based on where we live in the world. The students have spent the better part of the last year working on their startup business ideas and I was impressed with what the teams were able to accomplish and where they had admitted their failures. During the discussion one brave student admitted that he had felt a fear of failing during the course of launching their student business. When asked why he had explained that all of the students knew which projects from the previous year had done well and which had failed. He didn’t want his project to be on this year’s list of failed projects. He was interviewing with potential future employers and he wanted to be able to talk about his success.
How many times have you been asked the same battery of questions from one interview to the next? Frequently you’re asked to highlight your successes, quantify your intellect, measure your personal drive and determination, and maybe a hypothetical question or two thrown in for good measure. I published an article today in ERE.net that explains a Magic interview question that I’ve used to succinctly determine if a good candidate is the “right” candidate: Have you failed in your career?
Last week I did a story about Dun & Bradstreet CEO Jeff Stibel (@Stibel) on how he had created a Failure Wall at his company in an attempt to build a tolerance for risk-taking and failure within the organization’s culture (Post Here). I was just able to watch a similar interview that the Huffington Post had done a week prior with Jeff and three other guests. I found the discussion with the other guests absolutely bizarre but worth addressing. On one hand they were all praising Jeff for his ability to create a culture that has learned to tolerate failure without being fired. But on the other hand they all expressed deep concern over what would happen if someone took a picture of someone’s failure from the wall and shared it on social media. This is exactly the fear bordering on paranoia that Jeff is trying to address with his Failure Wall.
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