Updated: July 30, 2012
Too many companies spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to justify bad decisions. Let me explain.
Most operational decisions are made with the best set of data available at the time, regardless of how complete. Too often success or failure is measured against that data at that point in time. That type of thinking is flawed because it assumes that the business environment is static.
Product development is often flawed for the same reason. Companies build a better mouse trap based on today’s data but release it into a market 18 months to 2 years in the future. The product is obsolete before it is ever released.
Change the Way We Measure Success
Life is the same way. We often measure our success or failure today against who we were 2, 3, or even 10 years ago, rather than measuring against who we are today. That kind of thinking encourages us to become complacent and stop growing, or worse, create false measures of success.
Organizations would be better served by allowing people to make course corrections along the way rather than continue to look back to a point in time. But that requires greater risk. It would also require most companies to change the way they measure success or failure.
Failure is THE Option
What if they measured success by their rate of failure rather than looking at some static dollar figure created for the Board to justify another year of operation?
So what is the solution? Iterative forecasting and development. By constantly correcting our course along the way, we make failure an allie rather than an enemy.
Failure is Thomas Edison replied when asked about his 2,000 failed attempts at the light bulb that he had simply discovered 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb. Those weren’t failures.
The next time you or someone on your team makes a low ROI decision just shake it off and move on to the next decision. Give yourself, and others, permission to fail. Even encourage it if it is a valid attempt.
“A lot of guys who have never choked have never been in the position to do so.”
Tom Watson quotes (American Golfer. b.1949)
Why not put yourself in a position to choke. You and your team will be free to pursue the development of something truly innovative.
The same applies to your personal life. Low risk usually results in low reward.
Don’t quit, don’t give up! You may have discovered how NOT to create something but you’re not a failure.