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

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Building a human-curated brand

If the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) sector and their measured worth are the final argument for the successful 21st Century model, then they are beyond reproach. Fine-tuning masses of algorithms to reduce human touchpoints and deliver wild returns to investors—all with workforces infinitesimally small compared to the giants of the 20th Century—has been proven out.

Will Smith

Co-founder and head of new markets, The Plum Guide

Sustainability trends brands can expect in 2020

​Marketers have made strides this year in sustainability with the number of brands rallying behind the Not Business As Usual alliance for action against climate change being a sign of the times. While sustainability efforts have gained momentum this year, 2020 is shaping up to be the year brands are really held accountable for their work in this area.

Ben King

CSR manager & sustainability expert, Finder

The trouble with Scotty from Marketing

As a Marketer, the ‘Scotty from Marketing’ meme troubles me.

Natalie Robinson

Director of marketing and communications, Melbourne Polytechnic

It's a pretty interesting article to read. I will learn more about this company later.

Dan Bullock

40 staff and 1000 contracts affected as foodora closes its Australian operations

Read more

If you think it can benefit both consumer and seller then it would be great

Simon Bird

Why Ford is counting on the Internet of Things to drive customer engagement

Read more

It's a good idea. Customers really should control their data. Now I understand why it's important.

Elvin Huntsberry

Salesforce CMO: Modern marketers have an obligation to give customers control of their data

Read more

Instagram changes algorithms every time you get used to them. It really pisses me off. What else pisses me off? The fact that Instagram d...

Nickwood

Instagram loses the like in Australia; industry reacts positively

Read more

I tried www.analisa.io to see my Instagram Insight

Dina Rahmawati

7 marketing technology predictions for 2016

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in