Allowing failure can lead to innovation

Leslie Taito | Hope Global CEO 

Recently, a bright, young employee came to me with an idea to improve a long-standing manufacturing process. He described the problem and his theory about how to make improvements.

After some discussion he provided his thoughts and was hopeful if we implemented his ideas, we would see productivity gains. We agreed that it was worth a try and discussed ways to monitor his progress. He left my office confident and excited to prove his theory.

After a couple of weeks he appeared at my office door looking forlorn, shoulders sagging and looking a bit nervous. He stated sheepishly that his improvement project was a failure and began to express his regret for what he believed went wrong. I stopped him a couple of minutes into the conversation and told him that there was no innovation without experimentation. Failures are learning lessons and can help lead to successful improvements. We can learn as much from them, if not more.

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As business leaders, we must create a safe environment for new ideas, process improvements and experimentation. We, as a society, get so caught up today in highlighting mistakes and failures that we have stifled creativity and innovation.

A key function of our role as leaders is to create a culture that allows for controlled project failure and celebrates it as an important component in the formula for success. If we create the environment for experimentation, we will enable our bright, talented and creative employees to design and improve our companies for the next level of growth and success.