Pat Perry: Why failure is so critical to business success

By Pat Perry,
Pat PerryI discovered a long time ago that not much is learned from success.
Perhaps it’s not success but failures that really make a difference in our world. They tend to shape our perspective and provide guidance on how to do things better and smarter.
There is so much emphasis on success in business that perhaps once in awhile we forget how it actually gets achieved. Success just does not happen, it’s not easy and it comes along with plenty of frustration, anxiety and sometimes tears! Show me a successful business person and I
will show you someone who fails quite a bit.
In this age of instant gratification, it is not surprising that instant success in business seems to be expected these days. Unfortunately, as nice as instant success would be, the fact is that trial and error is the foundation of business progress.
So, if you really want to see more innovation at your organization and ultimately see successful outcomes, consider “re-wiring” your perspective on your employees’ and business failures. As crazy as it may sound, here are some ideas on how to increase the probability of failure:
• Start at the top — In most cases, corporate leaders ascend to their positions due to careers filled with accomplished work histories. Those accomplishments are most likely backed by years of risk taking, starts, stops and failures.
With this knowledge, great leaders work on sustaining work environments that support employees who stick their neck out, fall short a few times, brush themselves off and pursue excellence. Companies known for innovation have these environments where top performers thrive!
• Establish a failure reward program — This may sound wacky, but it works. It’s the opposite of how people are trained to think and yet, rewarding trial and error has a greater long-term impact on your workforce than short term rewards for success.
And, rewards do not need to be monetary. Often, public praise for the effort and next steps shows other employees that continuous process improvement is in fact rewarded rather than the traditional end result. In this day and age, it is all about improving and adjusting each day, which means plenty of failures along the way.
Focus on the process and experience and the success will follow.
• Hire the right people — In order for innovation to occur you do need people on your staff who love stretching their minds and skill sets. These are the people who often drive organizational results.
And, in the right work environment, risk taking, innovative high achievers make magic happen.
A couple of failures along the way for these top performers are simply benchmarks to them and not roadblocks.
• Don’t fail to ask — Have individual, small and large group conversations about failure. Gain a perspective on what your employees’ thoughts are on the subject and if they feel your work setting supports the process or only the result.
The best consultants you can access are your employees. So, spend time with them to have open dialogue on the subject of failure. It will be eye opening. And, listening to their views, fears and interests on the subject of failure will be eye opening for you too!
Failure is all about learning how to handle adversity and getting better. Failure teaches us life-long lessons, many of which we hopefully apply in and outside of work. The most important of all these, I believe, is “failing to fail will certainly result in failure.”


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