March 27, 2019

If Failure Is Not an Option, Then Neither Is Success


“If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”
– Seth Godin

From the moment we enter school, failure is a punishable offence.

Teachers, peers and other influential figures treated it as something to be avoided at all costs – often at the cost of creativity, reaching out for new opportunities, and daring to think different.

Naturally, this deep-seated fear of failure persists as we make our way into the workplace.

And it’s become one of the most insidious threats to innovation, with 22% of Australian business leaders reporting aversion to risk by staff and management as a barrier.

For some, it’s difficult (and scary) to unlearn this attitude to failure, but imperative if businesses are to survive this era of disruption.

So how can we build and foster a fail-friendly culture for our staff?

First, we need to start embracing failure as an opportunity to learn.

This isn’t just limited to launch – it should be from the very beginning, when team members start putting their hands up to share their ideas.

Leaders have to create a culture where it’s okay to fail, provided we share those learnings and evolve together.

For example, knowing the fail-rate of experiments is high, leaders should set and manage expectations which unlock the passion and energy of their teams, instead of keeping them up at night.

Knowing there’s a cultural ‘safety net’ allows people to take risks in a way that helps them learn and grow, which naturally pushes the organisation forward.

Second, we should seek to control rather than predict the future.

We can control the amount of risk around a new opportunity by clearly outlining what we’re willing to invest, and therefore willing to lose.

This can be nailed down in the scoping or planning phase for your new product, service or system, ensuring you build a prototype or initiate a rollout with a risk level you’re comfortable to keep moving with.

Again, this shift in organisational culture isn’t easy, which is why it must be backed by open collaboration and guided by a clear mission for your team to rally around.

At Eliza_, our mission is to create products that people love. It’s our simple guide for how we approach product and service innovation, deciding on what ideas and features to keep, kill or remix.

We even built a Lab which leaders and their teams use as a ‘test bed’ to design, test and develop new product ideas and service innovations.

We look at every failure as a lesson to be learned – so what can your team learn today?

Dan Bradley

Co-Founder / Head of Brand, Design & Experience

Dan’s award-winning, international expertise in brand, product and service design is driven by his passion for uncovering compelling truths and solving problems. He applies human-centred design practice to create real connection and meaning in everything he does.

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