Chris Evans was interviewing a number of guests on his Radio 2 morning show just recently – two actors and a sportsman – and all had business interests alongside their profession. For one it was a restaurant, for another it was an art gallery, for another it was a training company.and they opened a conversation about the value of failure. Three of the four had been in businesses previously which had failed and the general feeling was that you need to fail in order to be a good businessperson.
I think this valuing of failure comes from the recognition of how much you learn by making mistakes and failing (according to any criteria). But it only has value if you do learn and improve for the next project or business opportunity. I have a low tolerance for people who make the same mistake more than once as does the current economic climate. Failing to fully achieve objectives is a normal part of day to day business but again, this only has value if we learn from it so we can aim higher next time and continue to push ourselves and our teams. However, there is an impact of this failure on the team, particularly in small businesses so whilst it’s useful to fail (and a great example to set to your team), the team may struggle with appreciating you as a leader if there are too many failures. Too much failure makes questions appear in people’s brains – staff, press, clients.. – so must be balanced with appreciable successes or a clear strategy that accommodates testing, risk and ambition.
Similarly, the discussion raised the need to fail fast before too much damage is done to the brand, team or company. The Harvard Business Review blog also picks up this need and the authors articulate the danger of failing too frequently or simply hanging on in there past the point of no return. No-one can teach you this point but one needs to develop a business intuition understanding where that point is for you and keep pushing at it. Without the risk of failure, there is no innovation, no creativity and no ambition. Without failure, we would have a standardised business environment that was conservative, majority driven, traditional and boring!
Without some kind of failure, we would not see any of the inventions and innovations that are part of the British business culture. So, Chris and co are right – we need to experience failure in order to grow businesses and ideas and challenge and motivate ourselves.
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky