We often hear about the importance of failure when driving new ideas or new businesses. We’re given advice to Fail Early, Fail Often, and Fail Cheap. While this well-meaning advice is accurate on the whole the reality is that failure in most organizations comes with pretty heavy consequences. Within mature organizations a failed initiative can have a dramatic impact for both the individual and the long term success of organization itself.
Over the last few years I have frequently helped friends and colleagues in their search to find new work opportunities. Every time I start our conversation by asking how they are building their personal brand. I know that it sounds a bit ridiculous but in the age of an abundance of job candidates, how are they going to stand out? How are they building their exposure to their professional network to improve the odds that they are found?
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Steve Blank‘s (@sgblank) work (I have linked to some of his recent articles below) and I did appreciate the distinction that he had drawn between teachers, mentors, and coaches in his article for LinkedIn. But as I read the article I found myself upset with his response to a question from an audience member. I felt that he had shown indifference to the audience member based on his response. The question was “How do I get you, or someone like you to become my mentor?” The individual was clearly asking for a suggestion on how to find a mentor. Steve’s response was “At least for me, becoming someone’s mentor means a two-way relationship. A mentorship is a back and forth dialog – it’s as much about giving as it is about getting. It’s a much higher-level conversation than just teaching. Think about what can we learn together? How much are you going to bring to the relationship?” Steve finished the article with this advice regarding mentorships “But never ask. Offer to give.” To me that advice sounds to close to, “I’m too busy, don’t bother me with your question.”
Back in 2009 Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries (@ericries) had coined the term “pivot” for the technique used by tech startups to change the strategic direction of their companies based on what they had learned (see his original post here). The theory goes that by doing you are actually learning something along the way (see my previous post on learning from feedback loops in systems thinking) and that you might find the “something” that you had learned has a better chance of success than your original strategy. The alternative is that at least it will enable you to extend your organization’s runway further out into the future in search of success.
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