Is it ever OK to fail?

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“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative” – American film director, Woody Allen

It’s a really contentious discussion it seems: Is it ever ok to fail at something as long as you have done so from a position of knowledge? There has been a really interesting discussion around the internet of late, about risk taking in Riskbusiness. In an article at Brazen Careerist called Risk Takers and Why It’s Hard To Be One, author Joseph Yi talks about how we are programmed to play it safe and go with what we know works. Of course there is a fine line between risk taking and being foolish – no one should jump into something without having thought things through first. He adds: “The risk taker isn’t foolish, they are calculative. They decide to break from the norm because they see the potential success in something rather than let the bumps in the road stop them.”


And over at BusinessWeek, in the Debate Room they asked the question: are companies going overboard with the freedom to fail?
“There’s no doubt that innovation entails risk and randomness, and that sometimes people are going to do all the right things but get bad results. We should celebrate people who take well-thought-out, calculated risks that don’t pan out. That is not failure but important learning on the road to organizational success, as resources can be redirected to projects with higher potential”


Bold thinking is one of the cornerstones of RB’s company culture. It forms the basis of one of our Core Values: Entrepreneurship. So what does that mean when you work here? Well it means encouraging people to take the initiative and allowing daring ideas to thrive. They actually want you to take calculated risks. Which is a pretty amazing environment to work in!

In an article at Innovation Leadership Network entitled Why Making Mistakes is a Key Innovation Skill author Tim Kastelle reasons that failure is important. That it is a sign of a healthy innovation process.
“You don’t necessarily have to embrace failure, but you must be willing to learn from it. If you combine it with learning, making mistakes is a key innovation skill”.


So what do you think about having the freedom to ‘fail’? In this insightful video on our YouTube channel, entitled Advice to Graduate Trainees , Ian Hutchinson, RB’s Global Media Director, says “It’s OK to fail sometimes if you’ve actually been brave”

He, along with a group of other senior managers, offer career advice and tips to new starters in the FMCG world. But what do you make of his statement? We asked the Linked In community to share their thoughts. Comments ranged from “No, because that’s no way for winners to think” to “you have to be willing to be brave enough to take risks sometimes and even if things don’t pan out, at least you tried. Sure, no one wants to fail, but everyone does it at some point and it’s important to learn that fear of failing shouldn’t be a reason to not go for something.”


I love this quote from RBs CEO Bart Becht when he wrote a post about global entrepreneurs on this blog back in June:
“. . . we actually encourage ‘constructive conflict’! When there is a group of people who feel passionately about a set of ideas, I want to ensure those ideas are allowed to flourish. They should not be silenced by the majority consensus. And if they come armed with facts and are prepared to argue their point of view, they will be encouraged to keep working away until they find something our consumers like. Of course, this can lead to some lively meetings, but this is about finding a way to take it forward; building on each other’s ideas rather than sitting around a table and coming up with a consensus opinion. We make our decisions fast and then we all stand behind them”.


And that quote right at the beginning of this post? You’ll also find that on the RB company website, on the ‘innovators‘ page . . .

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One Response to “Is it ever OK to fail?”

  1. Snehal Rana says:

    Agreed,
    To both the facts:
    1) Innovative idea’s are allowed to thrive within the company
    2) You need to take risks (Calculated) and at right moment at times to succeed.

    I would like to support my second statement using RB’s example. And in context to sales.
    RB’s brands are leaders in their own segments, and most of them belong to the pull category. So sales happens automatically most of the times. So if I am achieving my targets without doing anything new then the success ain’t mine, its the Brand power that’s doing it.
    So to prove myself (If not to other, atleast to myself) I should do something innovative and take risk’s to excel. And RB’s culture allows the employees to take risk and innovate. And its applauded if good, if not, we are not discouraged and are asked to keep up the good work.

    RB Rocks.

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