Several weeks ago the Kansas City Chapter of the IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) held its first annual Un-meritable Awards program at The Idea Loft. The Un-meritable Award came about as a fun way to remind both industrial design students and professionals that failure is to be expected. “Pushing the limits and boundaries of what is useful, usable and desirable, is a driving ingredient of what is innovation.”
Failure can be expected not only in design, but in leadership as well. And failure can be particularly expected when we are leading teams in creative effort. Creative effort is a journey into new territory, a trip into the unknown. Sometimes we end up, after considerable time and expense, at a place that offers no value.
As long as we and our team can learn from the mistakes we make, we are not failures – we have just not reached a successful outcome at this point in time.
In the July-August 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review, Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, states:
I’ve always believed that it’s important not to wallow in failure. I say to my people, “Don’t enjoy the success too long, because there’s always another challenge. But don’t allow yourself to be pulled down by failure, either. Learn from the mistake and move on.” In our company,because so many of the decisions are creativity-based, there’s bound to be a fair amount of failure.
As leaders, failure should not be an option, i.e. something we deliberately choose. But if we are brilliance activators–leaders who encourage our teams to be creative and innovative–we can expect that failures will occur. Let us learn from those failures and do our best not to repeat them. Maybe we could even follow the example of the IDSA and celebrate them.