Did you know failure is one of the biggest indicators of future success in an entrepreneur? According to an article in the April issue of Harvard Business Review, “Failing By Design,” many venture capitalists won’t invest in a new enterprise if the founder has never undergone failure. In other words, they are looking for… failures! Why??
Let me first state that there are two types of failures, the first are those that do nothing and fail, the second are those that take a risk and end up failing. We are focusing on the second type in this case. If you’ve ever had a failed effort, I hope you feel the same about the reams of research on this. I know I do. From failed efforts it is proven that we have our best learning experiences, we grow, and we gain the experiences necessary for future significant successes. The fact is that businesses will not assume the risks necessary for innovation and development if they’re not ok with the idea of failing on some level.
I know those that are so afraid of failing that they will do anything to avoid it. The problem with fearing failure is that you ultimately avoid risk, don’t bet on yourself or your business, and stunt your richest experiences. Apparently those who have never faced a failure in a product, division or business don’t have the experience that is valued in business. But, no one WANTS to fail!
I recently heard someone quote a high-ranking executive and head of a US division of a multinational company saying that he was sure, nearly 20 times in his career, that he would be fired. Fired for standing out, speaking his mind, and taking relatively risky actions. He was never fired, however, only promoted. But it can be a very fine line at times.
And failure doesn’t just come in the form of losing money. If you commit to working incredibly hard, day and night, to get your business off the ground or move your career forward and it doesn’t work – it is also a failure (and perhaps a blow to your ego after pouring your heart and soul into your failed initiative). It could be assumed that it is simply less disappointing and easier to not work that hard and not reach success. The excuse is built in to the equation already. What would happen if you tried your hardest and it didn’t work out? The real questions is – what if you didn’t? What could you be losing out on by never trying at all?
I mentioned before that I have had some failures in my business over the years. Painful lessons I certainly don’t want to repeat. But I know the key now is to manage for failures. Be prepared to share what went wrong and dissect it. Also, a strategy I have learned is to create a “disengagement process” for getting out of a project that is showing triggering signs of failure. We all should try enough things that inevitably will result in some that don’t work out so that many more will.