Lots of people are talking about failure at the moment. It's in vogue because the agile movement is teaching us all to learn lessons early, to perfect our models in short iterative loops and to test, test, test. The venerable Harvard Business Review is writing about it so it must be 'a thing'.
I'm talking a lot about embracing failure. It's how we're going to build a better business. You can read all about it in Matthew Syed's 'Black Box Thinking' in which he explains the benefits of learning from mistakes brilliantly. Read the book, it's five star. Seriously... go to Amazon and buy it now.
The twin sister of embracing failure is fostering psychological safety at work: binning the blame culture and encouraging mistakes to be shared. I'll cover that off at some stage in the future.
Meanwhile, It looks like we're all quickly adopting a rapid improvement culture? Brilliant! Except, something's gnawing at me.
Client-side, leaders like James Quincey are saying that people who don't make mistakes aren't trying hard enough. Agency leaders like me are talking about failure openly. But is failure only OK internally, or does it cross business boundaries?
The click/whirr response to agency failure is to fire them. Agencies should be challengers so client/agency relationships also need psychological safety. Clients need to look at agencies as expert experimenters - which will fundamentally change the pitch process. Can we be expected to take answers in a slide deck if we and the client both want to be brilliant?
The best answers come from pushing boundaries and trying hard. That means failure is inevitable. But, it's a brave client who hires an agency because they're not afraid to fail.
In May, right after he became CEO of Coca-Cola Co., James Quincey called upon rank-and-file managers to get beyond the fear of failure that had dogged the company since the “New Coke” fiasco of so many years ago. “If we’re not making mistakes,” he insisted, “we’re not trying hard enough.”