Failure - The Path to Innovation
If there is one thing everyone hates, it's the sense of failure. Indeed, the sweetness of victory feels just so much better.
As an entrepreneur, though, you may learn much more from setbacks than successes. We must approach failure with a different mindset - seeing it as a chance rather than an obstacle.
I do not necessarily talk about massive company-closing failures, although those might also bring eye-opening discoveries. We are usually scared of making decisions or changes because every step we take leads to some obscure outcome, which, sometimes, might not be a success and even bring loss.
Every leader wants their business ideas to work out. But it's imperative not to have high expectations that they will, at least not on the first try.
As CEO at Oxylabs.io, we constantly create new products and solutions, making it inevitable to experience failures. Innovation will eventually emerge, but it is almost impossible to achieve any results without making some mistakes along the way.
Experimentation fuels innovation which is a core process behind Oxylabs, and it contributes significantly to the company's success. Our culture has always encouraged innovation in every aspect of the business.
Learning to “embrace” failures
Although literature findings on business innovation say that it is critical to a company's financial performance, however, many are still reluctant to innovate because of many uncertainties that might contribute to failures.
Nonetheless, a recent study stresses the importance of failure in organizational operations. In addition, other research concluded that learning through failure is critical for innovation. Companies that want to be creative must produce, preserve, and enhance their capacity to build and identify internal knowledge.
The latter study also found that learning is the primary way of redefining current business processes and restructuring operational procedures.
When I think back on all the mistakes at Oxylabs, I'm impressed by how much knowledge and insight we've acquired from them. So, if you work in the technology field and you're not hitting setbacks at least sometimes, clearly, you're not taking enough risks and not thinking broadly enough.
Throughout my experience in the industry, I’ve seen countless examples when fear of failure overtakes even the brightest and most innovative individuals. That's why I am encouraging my colleagues to look at it from a different perspective and replace it with a spirit of exploration and constant development.
On the other hand, experimentation must be undertaken with a calm, controlled, and reasoned thought process. Acting without careful thought will likely result in many failures and little reward. As a business owner or CEO, you have to be risk-averse at some level.
In addition, managers need to tackle projects in such a way that allows space for monitoring and mitigating mistakes’ impact so that there is no significant damage in the long run. By doing so, we prepare for inevitable setbacks and have time to analyze what went wrong and how to move forward. This system allows employees to experiment without being worried about failing.
A suggestion I have for any company trying to develop and move ahead with testing is to treat each project as if it were a new company. Most business students are probably taught not to anticipate enormous profits in any firm's first 12 months (or fewer). While the turnaround time will be shorter since a support framework is in place, we should not anticipate efforts at innovation to succeed in three months.
Furthermore, each project is a one-of-a-kind endeavor. Metric-driven companies often establish strict deadlines with very defined objectives in mind. If a project falls short of its objectives, it loses all funding. However, there is no such thing as an "experimental project" template. If a template existed, it would be termed "careful consideration."
Finally, the project team's skill set should be thoroughly evaluated. Even the finest ideas might fail if allocated to the wrong people. Because the teams will be tiny, additional administrative actions will be necessary to ensure success.
Converting failures into innovation
I’ve heard someone say that innovation is both a preventative measure against market slowdowns and a revitalizing agent for growth, and I cannot agree more.
I am sure we’ve all heard success stories from huge companies that were created by accident. One of the biggest cereal brands - Kellogg's, was created by accidentally leaving breakfast oats for too long that they became stale.
Another example is Post-it notes. The inventor of sticky notes was attempting to develop superglue for plane construction. Instead, he developed a fragile product containing a sensitive adhesive ingredient now used for the sticky part of the post-its.
They are an excellent example of how unexpected situations can bring significant business ideas and innovation.
Turbulent environments such as a pandemic, war, or economic crisis require innovation. Companies of all sizes must react rapidly to these new restrictions and the anticipated economic difficulties that might follow.
Paradoxically, it is an excellent time to shift focus and look for alternative business models and innovation. Although it is not most people's natural tendency, creativity has always been a solution in times of distress.
Companies must build environments where new ideas are valued unless proven otherwise. A strong team can identify the project's successes and failures even if the project is deemed a failure. These findings might provide the basis for further investigation, and I am confident that one of them will eventually succeed.