Hr LibraryInnovation

Increase Your Return on Failure

Source |Hbr .org  |  BY:Julian Birkinshaw and Martine Haas

One of the most important—and most deeply entrenched—reasons why established companies struggle to grow is fear of failure. Indeed, in a 2015 Boston Consulting Group survey, 31% of respondents identified a risk-averse culture as a key obstacle to innovation.

Senior executives are highly aware of this problem. On one hand, they recognize the usefulness of failure. As 3M’s legendary chairman William McKnight once said, “The best and hardest work is done in the spirit of adventure and challenge…Mistakes will be made.” Pixar’s president, Ed Catmull, has a similar point of view. “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil,” he has said. “They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new….and should be seen as valuable.”

On the other hand, management processes for budgeting, resource allocation, and risk control are built on predictability and efficiency, and executives get promoted by showing they’re in control. So even if people understand that they can and should fail, they do everything possible to avoid it.


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