4 steps to ensuring your company fails successfully

Leaders from Adobe, PwC and CA discuss the integral role failure plays in innovation and how organisations can better support it

Failure is an integral part of being innovative and it’s time organisations better embraced incentives, financial systems and organisational processes that support it.

That’s the view of PricewaterhouseCoopers US innovation leader, Mitra Best, who was on a panel of women leaders discussing how to drive innovation across an organisation.

“Innovation is not an extracurricular activity anymore, it’s a baseline activity,” she told attendees.

But in order to be innovative, you have to also be willing to fail. Best identified four key ways an organisation can make itself more receptive to failure, the first of which ensuring compensation models support it.

“Incentive and compensation models can’t punish failure; if you are experimenting, you can’t get deep with your experiments without it,” she said. “The second thing is learning and continuous education. At PwC, we have a huge learning and development group that has a big budget and is putting together tens of thousands of courses every year. But what we need to do is look at failed experiments, extract the learnings and then scale them.

“It’s OK to fail once, but you can’t fail again and again, that’s not a learning opportunity.”

Best’s third piece of advice is to reorient investment models to allow for failed experiments.

“More times than not, when you fail at something, you learn and want to do it differently, but that’s also often the time when they cut off your budget,” she said. “That’s not cool. As organisations, we need to fix that.”

Best’s fourth call was for finance chiefs to budget for failed experiments when they think about ROI metrics. “That makes it easier for all of us to do the other hard things we need to do around innovation,” she said.

Fellow panellist and Adobe SVP and CIO, Cynthia Stoddard, said it’s also a cultural issue. Companies need to give people time to both grow and experiment, she said.

“People need to know it is OK to fail,” she said. “We have to take the failures and turn them into learnings so people can see the organisation is embracing and using them in different ways,” she said. “That will help get that culture of innovation down tothe individual contributor level where they are comfortable with questioning, trying and failing.”

One way of helping shift thinking around failure is to change the vocabulary, Adobe VP of global business partnering and ERC, Cindy Springsteel, said.

“The word ‘failure’ throws people off and if you’re risk averse, that language can feel threatening,” she said.

For CA Technologies VP of digital marketing, Lynn Teo, it’s about adopting a test-and-learn approach that has iteration at its core. She positioned this as a reduction in waste and improvement in efficiency overall.

“We’re introducing the concept of test, learn and learn something quickly in a short amount of time, then think about what you do more of us, and what you do less of,” she said. “In the future this will be par for the course. It allows for more learnings to be taken away from past experiments. Taking a hypothesis and iterating is more positive than the notion of failure.”

-Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit in Las Vegas as a guest of Adobe.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why doing your job well is the key to innovation

The words ‘power company’ and ‘innovation’ probably don’t seem like a natural combination. In fact, when I first went for a marketing role with an electricity company, I semi-dreaded the work I thought I’d be doing.

Catherine Anderson

Head of marketing, Powershop Australia

The great unlearning: How brands can assist with the adoption of voice

Mainstream adoption of voice technology will be all about what consumers are learning not to do.

Ash Mustchin

Director, digital and experiences, Principals

Why getting intimate is key to creating a great customer experience

According to CMO’s State of the CMO 2017 research, 83 per cent of CMOs believe customer experience to be central to their role. An interesting stat considering few of us experience great brand experiences.

Pip Stocks

CEO and founder, BrandHook

'to lesson screen time'LOL someone needs a lesson on how to lessen typos.

Andrew Ward

Golden Circles invests in content play to drive brand purpose

Read more

Hey Nadia, interesting read. We have all read about what your chatbots should offer or have but haven't came across with anything about w...

Ashish K Jain

What not to do when building chatbots and voice-based brand interactions

Read more

There are some many other great solutions compared to the ones you listed here. Our clients left some of those and switched to MARA (getM...

Alexandru Rada

CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 9 June

Read more

Charming Shane. You know this is a public forum, right ?

Peter Strohkorb

​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

Read more

I agree customer intimacy is a great way of creating better customer experience. Especially in the Insurance and Financial industry. Her...

Jessicalopez1989

Why getting intimate is key to creating a great customer experience and optimising customer value

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in