Building a Successful Failing Company

Each year over 30,000 consumer products are launched. 95% of them fail.
The failure rate of TV shows is about the same 95%.
75% of advertising campaigns are failure.
(Probably the real rate 95%, but the years of crafting those Effie entries probably helped to shape that number down)

The conclusion is clear. We are doomed to fail. Or actually we have planned ourselves to failure.

Companies, who do not tolerate small failures, end up doing big ones. Perversely companies are obsessed of micromanaging the staff and punishing for minor mishaps, but eventually end up messing up themselves big time. There is too much strategy & planning, not enough doing (ironically coming from planner). The trick is to fail often and fast to avoid the big failures and to ensure big wins. Actually it is not about failing, but just doing things.

Four ways to encourage doing actual things and failing fast in your workplace:

1. Taking ownership of the ideas and making it a habit
The problem with the companies is not the lack of ideas. Not even good ones. The problem is that there is a lack of ownership of the ideas. Throwing ideas is worthless, planting and cultivating them priceless. That is why Orange idclic works. You do not just throw an idea around. You get the opportunity and responsibility to build that idea.

I remember time selling digital ideas, when clients only wanted TV ads. We always presented those ideas, even though client had not asked for them. First they were irritated, then amused, then interested and finally buying them.

Selling idea is about creativity, vision & perseverance. Mostly the latter.

If you make the habit of producing five presentable ideas to improve your business (or your client´s business) every month, you have presented 60 good ideas by the end of year. I recommend changing the client or the team, if you have not sold any of them.

2. Something Concrete/Month: Test & research with real audience
If after numerous focus groups, strategy workshops and numerous alternations to body copy you still end up messing the project, what is the real risk of just trying stuff out? Also company, which gets its Facebook status updates approved by ten different managers, cannot really be agile innovator.

Your website and social media channels give great opportunity to test things with real people before you commit millions of dollars behind certain idea. When you commit to test one of those ideas every month, you have done 12 prototypes a year. On a worst case you have 12 small failures. On the best case you have done couple of breakthrough successes.

3. Reaction fund: Show me the money to show that you care

World does not spin around your strategy. Your strategy spins around the world. And that world is changing rapidly.

“Ability is little account without opportunity”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Every company should have reaction fund to react to current events. Something relevant happens in the real world, which opens the opportunity for your company. When the opportunity rises you should have budget to react to it. Whether you produce event, application, flashmob, social movement does not matter, reaction and taking the action is the key. The designated budget is also a proof that your company is serious about that agile innovation.

4. Skunk works Exchange program: Spreading the change to whole company

Big change starts with small movements. That is why it is crucial to start with task force, skunk works or lab, with progressive individuals who are hungry to change the company.

The challenge is to spread their impact to whole company. If people in skunk works are the only ones doing the cool stuff, it helps quite little the struggling company around. Thus every member of that skunk works should be member for only limited time. When revolutionizing the company for appropriate time in that small unit, they would be located all over the company in different units. This works also other way around, task forces giving new meaning to bored employees. Think of it as a work exchange, where you do not move geographically but mentally.

The future is uncertain and the failure is unavoidable. It is how we seize the opportunities and try out new things, which determines our success.

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