Failure

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Imaginary Time Travel as a Leadership Tool

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  • Read Time: 6 min 

Leaders can help employees manage immediate problems by harnessing the human capacity to think beyond the moment and recognize that “this too shall pass.” Psychological tools such as temporal distancing help ease the sting of current troubles. And the tool of “failure premortems” can help people identify dangerous risks and delusions in new projects by imagining they’re in the future looking back at why a project failed.

Why Hypotheses Beat Goals

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  • Read Time: 6 min 

Companies that aggressively pursue learning must accept the possibility of failure. But simply setting goals and being nonchalant if they fail is inadequate. Instead, companies should focus organizational energy on hypothesis generation and testing. Hypotheses force individuals to articulate in advance why they believe a given course of action will succeed. A failure then exposes an incorrect hypothesis — which can more reliably convert into organizational learning.

Act Like a Startup

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  • Read Time: 7 min 

As leaders of established businesses focus on becoming digital, they often embrace the mantra, act like a startup. A startup is an experiment, and its early goal is to learn, as quickly and inexpensively as possible, if an idea has merit. That same ability to figure out how a new value proposition might create revenues and profits is key to digital success. Established companies that want to test ideas for such propositions should be nurturing four traits of startups.

How Effective Leaders Drive Digital Change

Success in managing digital transformation starts with clarification of priorities, effective feedback, open development communications, and a willingness to take risks. These four behaviors, which allow employees to share ideas more freely and embrace taking risks, can lead to higher-performing teams during digital transformation.

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Lessons from Kunduz: Prevent Disaster by Paying Attention to the Little Picture

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  • Read Time: 7 min 

Debates about assigning responsibility and meting out punishment rarely address the bigger issue: how to prevent major failures from happening in the first place. Indeed, when we focus primarily on punishment, without addressing the precipitating factors—both technological and organizational — we are inadvertently exposing ourselves to risk of recurrence.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Randy Heinitz https://www.flickr.com/photos/rheinitz/8578335823

Real Innovators Don't Fear Failure

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One way to learn, argue Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Steven Krupp, is to “try to fail fast, often and cheaply in search of innovation.” Asking “what if” questions, they say, challenges executives to incorporate broader perspectives, stimulating “out-of-the-box dialogues that help leaders make better choices and find innovative solutions sooner.” Schoemaker and Krupp write that to help a team learn faster, leaders must frame mistakes as valuable learning opportunities.

Tim Harford on Trial, Error and Our "God Complex"

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  • Read Time: 3 min 

Financial Times journalist Tim Harford and author of “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure” argues that companies that have a God complex look for smart people (what he calls “little Gods”) to solve complex problems — when what they should really be doing is establishing systematic processes of trial and error.

Opportunism Knocks

Complex supply chains with many agents are more prone to problems, and on occasion, to spectacular collapse. Examples from the last few years include the subprime mortgage crisis; the failure of the Peanut Corporation of America; and dioxin-contaminated Irish pork. Without a doubt, today’s complex supply chains are vulnerable to opportunistic behavior leading to sometimes catastrophic failure. But there are five steps managers can take to protect their companies.

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Success as the Source of Failure?: Competition and Cooperation in the Japanese Economy

Will the Japanese business system, based on favorable industrial policies, the keiretsu, and lifetime employment, survive the current recession? While simultaneous competition and cooperation among companies have fostered growth and a system without “losers,” fundamental changes may require an upsurge in risk-taking Japanese entrepreneurs.

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