Be ready to fail
”Are you ready to fail?”
Imagine you get this question at a job interview by a recruiter or maybe even the chairman of the board. What would your answer be?
Probably your answer would be – without hesitation – that failure is not an option if you got the position as CEO or whatever high level manager job, you were applying for.
Most senior level managers share that view – that failure is not an option. They have to prevail every time, and is would be a devastating defeat and a personal tragedy if they failed at work. But they are wrong.
The best answer to the question is – off course – “Yes, I’m ready to fail because it is through failures that the way to success is created. Failure is a fundamental part of being innovative and able to create the next big thing in business life.
But most CEO’s don’t think this way – at least not in my country Denmark. They are in the “safe area” and are not risk savvy. Because it will hurt their careers as successful business leaders, stock price will plummet and the company probably will lose a lot of money if the novel product fails.
To be innovative you have to be very risk savvy and ready to fail – over and over again. And then again and again. As s business manager and a leader it is important that failure as an obligation is a part of your job description. If you’re not ready to take a risk in the hunt for successful and novel products, then nobody in the company are.
There is a major difference in being ready to take a risk and being risk savvy – and being reckless and without the indepth knowledge how to manage risks. Innovation leadership is very difficult and only a few in a generation actually makes it to the top of the world.
We all know them as icons and by name:
- Steve Jobs – Apple
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
- Bill Gates, Microsoft
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
- Howard Schultz, Starbucks
- Fred Smith, FedEx,
- Herb Kelleher, South West Airlines
They all came up with great ideas and they brought them to market with ground breaking success. It is innovation at its best and living examples of the readiness to failure.
Big ideas of ground shifting variety are rare and hard to pull off – but all of the mentioned above did it.
Besides being ready to fail they have to other things in common:
The two P’s.
Herb, Mark, Jeff, Fred and Larry plus the rest of the leader of truly innovative organizations and companies are all driven by a passion. A passion to create new solutions, products, processes or whatever that can meets a need at their customers and creates value for them.
They all have a passion for value – a passion for risk – a passion in creating and a passion for novelty and challenging the old ways and old thinking’s.
Purpose is the number one driver in innovation leadership. Besides being ready to fail it is crucial for these iconic leaders that there was a purpose with their business and creation. Why did Herb Kelleher struggle for so many years to create Southwest Airlines? First of all because he had a purpose: He wanted to bring the American people a cheap, fast and reliable way to travel their country. Flying should not be exclusively for the rich people who could afford to pay for the “business class” tickets. And he wanted to bring profitability back to the airline industry.
He succeeded (together with the Southwest LUV-crew) in a unprecedented way. In 2011 the company marked its 39th consecutive year of profitability – a feat unmatched in U.S aviation history. BTW – Southwest Airlines was founded in Dallas, Texas and the HQ is still in Dallas at the Dallas Airport named Love Field.
And that’s what it is all about. Love – passion and Purpose –and ready to fail.
The story of all great companies and great leaders.
Are you ready to fail? Again and again.