“We need to embrace and celebrate failure; because failure is a good thing” – We hear that all too often when being part of a startup community. There even are conferences and learning sessions promoting the perception that you need to fail to become successful.
Technically, this is not wrong; but in the end I have seen too many organizations or even individuals focusing more on doing something rapidly (and not caring necessarily about the success). This often leads to firefighting activities and being in a hamster wheel. We are fast doing activities, but we are not moving forward.
We covered this topic in our first Online ThinkTank.
The Celebration Grid compares activities we do (x-axis) and matches them with the outcome we might receive from said activities (y-axis). In general, we trust and employ good practices (which have been proven), make mistakes (well, we are human) and run experiments (let’s try, where we are heading). These can either lead to failure or success. We can only find out, however, if something was a good practice, experiment or mistake in retrospect, in hindsight.
If we make mistakes (unintentionally), the chance to fail is pretty high. And we use good practices because we know that the chance to succeed is high. Experiments are when we have no expectation about the outcome.
If we make a mistake, and it fails, the relationship between your activity and the outcome becomes clear – in hindsight. The same happens, if we make a good practice, and we succeed. In both cases we do not learn much as the outcome is more or less on what we could have expected.
We do learn if we coincidentally succeed on a failure, or we fail on a proven practice. Albeit that does not happen regularly. Learning is the highest when we run an experiment. We do not know what to expect, so any outcome is a learning.
Celebrating Failure would mean that we would celebrate the mistakes which led to failure, which does not make sense.
Celebrating Success sounds more positive, but would include celebrating proven practices, which would not help either. This would just keep us in our comfort zone. We might have a nice positive environment, but innovation and learning would not exist.
The Celebration Grid is a tool which helps you to emphasize on celebrating learnings, regardless if it is through proven practices, mistakes or experiments. Given though that it would emphasize that learning activities are highest when doing experiments, it will help you to understand that experiments (the activity) are more important than success or failure (the outcome).
With learning from your experiments and constantly improving the outcome, it is only consequential that the results might be what your market or customer needs – as opposed to what you think they need. This is where Innovation happens: Providing novel and upgraded solutions to existing problems.
So, the answer to higher innovation and more creativity seems clear: Run experiments, right?
What sounds easy is actually hard to practice. It is pretty common for companies to get lost in their experiments. There are companies which never release a product because they constantly run experiments into the wrong direction and do not learn from any outcome. Experiments work best in safe-to-fail environments, which is based on 3 parameters:
When you start doing experiments, it is important to set up the experiments to ensure a safe-to-fail environment. The following guidelines will help you to achieve that:
Do you want to lean more about how to successfully run experiments? We will cover that topic on our next Business Agility Online ThinkTank on 28 April from 9am – 10am. Sign up for the event on our website.