Building a business for growth and success is challenging. Not only must you successfully manage your team’s morale and productivity, but you must also learn how to attract clients, fend off potential threats, and gain ground in your vertical. Not only must your product or service have a unique quality or value proposition, but your team must remain innovative and nimble.
Then to top it all off, invariably, as you experience success others will begin to copy your offering. Being chased by competitors requires an “edginess” that is uncommon in businesses.
While necessary, this edge frequently comes with a risk. In order to bring new features, products, or services to market, your team must first create them. But creating these value additives is typically difficult, and since nobody has an effective crystal ball yet, the landscape is rife with failure.
This is why you as the leader must embrace the notion that innovation can get messy, and in order for your teams to feel comfortable taking that risk, you must convey safety in the crucible of innovation. Ideas and concepts are often born in Petri dishes and we must encourage our teams to play in those sandboxes of innovation frequently. You must encourage thinking outside the box and zigging while everyone else zags.
Certainly, everyone has heard the term “failing fast” and many organizations even tout it as one of their core values. I would offer these guardrails to those who are ready to embrace a culture that will fail fast:
Seek to Understand
As Covey repeatedly instructs, begin with the end in mind and seek to understand. Have an idea of what the product or service should look like and pull together people and resources who have insights or experiences with the specific problem(s) your team is trying to solve. It will be important for those leading the project to document input and feedback. Then, once the inputs are collected, adorn the goggles and lab coat and begin to innovate.
Rely on Data
Rely on data and keep stakeholders apprised along the way. This allows the supervisor to understand the risks ahead of time, and form a plan with those doing the work that allows them to react quickly in case things do not work as planned. If things do not go as planned, examine the data to see what other avenues to try. The more lessons there are to learn, the higher the chances of a “successful failure.” Remember, we either succeed or we learn!
Know the Playing Field
Know the playing field in advance. Are there boundaries or parameters we cannot cross? Are there necessary guidelines we must play within? Are there risks associated with the innovation? Those working on the project should understand what they need to avoid, and these risks or areas of avoidance must be communicated to all internal stakeholders.