FAILURE–the word still strikes fear in many companies and employees—something to be avoided at all costs. Failure can use up valuable resources and causes short-term pain. But avoiding failure, fearing failure, is not a good thing.
If you cut through the existing stigma surrounding failure, you’ll see that making mistakes has always been part and parcel of life. And, more importantly, steppingstones towards success. In fact, many innovations and discoveries owe their existence to failure. For example, penicillin, pacemakers, and post-it notes have been products of mistakes and trial and error.
Avoiding, fearing, and punishing failure can harm your company and employees. If you expect your employees to get things done right the first time, they experience more pressure and get discouraged from trying new things. That can stifle creativity and innovation.
So, allow failure in the workplace. Provide your employees with a safe place to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them. There are quite a few reasons for doing so.
Why do you need to embrace failure?
1) Encourages openness and honesty
If you build a culture of accepting failure, leaders and employees are more likely to openly share their mistakes rather than sweep them under the carpet. However, you must avoid the blame game. A culture of finger-pointing can discourage employees from openly discussing their mistakes. But, by making failure acceptable, you encourage employees to talk about their mistakes with their managers and coworkers. It also drives them to discuss lessons learned and find ways to correct those mistakes.
2) Reduces stress and pressure on employees
By sending your employees a clear message that it’s okay to fail, you alleviate excessive pressure from their shoulders. As a result, they feel less anxious and stressed and become more engaged in their work, boosting productivity.
3) Promotes learning and collaboration
Allowing your leaders, managers, and employees to make mistakes lets them find out what works and what doesn’t. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement, providing the foundation for your company’s future success. Moreover, giving employees and teams the freedom to test different ideas and learn from mistakes encourages collaboration as they become united around shared goals.
4) Increases creativity and innovation
Providing your employees with a safe place to test and fail allows them to learn and improve. It also increases the likelihood of identifying and discovering novel solutions to problems that break the mold. This then drives much-needed innovation, which can be a significant source of competitive advantage for your company.
Creating a failure-safe workplace
1) Talk about your failures
Cultivating a culture of failure acceptance begins with top management. As a leader, you need to be open about your failures, what lessons you have learned from them, and how they led to success. This way, you show employees your human side and build trust. More importantly, you make it safe for others in the organization to fail. You encourage employees to take calculated risks, make mistakes, and learn to improve the company.
2) Help employees understand the purpose of their roles
Communicate how individual roles fit into the company’s overall goals and objectives. More importantly, how they impact colleagues and customers. By doing so, your employees will view their work as more meaningful and have a strong sense of purpose. This then drives them to make more of an impact within their roles, including trying and testing solutions outside of the box.
3) Encourage employees to get out of their comfort zone
When employees roam outside their comfort zone, they try new things and learn lessons. This enables them to grow and develop. But venturing out of their comfort zone can be daunting. So, you need to provide them with the necessary tools and support. These can include decision-making tools like simulations, pilot programs, and what-if scenarios. These tools allow employees to try out different business strategies and solutions safely. You can also get employees out of their comfort zone by encouraging them to work in other departments.
4) Celebrate failure
As astonishing as this may seem, celebrating and recognizing failure is vital for company success. By applauding employees who tried, failed, and learned, you acknowledge that failure is acceptable. Rewarding and recognizing failure also encourages employees to keep on experimenting and taking risks, leading to ground-breaking innovation. Swiss pharma giant, Roche, is one example of a company that celebrates failures and the lessons learned.
5) Record and monitor failures
Previous failures can be valuable tools for learning and future innovation. So, it’s highly beneficial to record them. You can achieve this by creating a data storage system or platform for ideas, strategies, or concepts that have failed. You can also capture data on lessons learned, successful aspects, and challenges encountered. Leaders, managers, and employees can then use this data to help them avoid making the same mistakes again. Accessing data on past failures also helps reduce employees’ fear of exploring new territories.
Failure is something we can accept and can serve as a crucial step towards company success. So let your employees commit those failures. Extraordinary failures help them learn, grow, develop, create, and innovate. After all, without failure, how can there be innovation? And without innovation, how can there be a competitive advantage?