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Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity


"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." ~ Thomas Edison


After returning from Kilimanjaro, I was having breakfast with a colleague, who reminded me that “beyond the mountain, there are more mountains” There are days when launching Jordan/Sydnor has been like climbing a mountain. As an entrepreneur, you climb to reach your goals, you pour your heart and soul into growing a successful business, you invest time and resources, and with all that being done you still fall short sometimes.

As leaders and entrepreneurs, we learn first-hand that Innovation is not a linear journey. It is a non-linear experience that includes a series of trials, errors, and breakthroughs. A mindset shift is often necessary for us as leaders that paves the way for innovation and leads us closer to the growth and success that we often envision, at the start of the endeavor.


Yet, embracing failure is not an easy task. By adopting Edison's perspective, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work," you can encourage your teams to innovate by taking risks, experimenting, and learning valuable lessons from setbacks. Success is often on the other side of the setback and to proceed requires unwavering determination.


As I’ve embarked on this new adventure, I’ve encountered numerous obstacles and setbacks. There are days when I fall short of expectations, yet, I remember my guide on the mountain reminding me to keep trying and to learn from yesterday’s mistakes because every day is filled with lessons, some successes, and some setbacks. Also, each experience is an opportunity to grow more and more resilient. As a result, I’m growing to view failure as a stepping-stone toward innovation rather than a roadblock because embracing failure is a valuable learning experience that enables me to grow as an entrepreneur, a leader, and a person.


Every day leaders are being asked to make difficult game-changing decisions at a quicker and quicker pace. What made you a successful leader yesterday, will not necessarily make you successful tomorrow. Leading during rapidly changing times requires the constants of knowing your values, your North Star, and innovative thinking. Yet innovation is often tossed around with a casual coolness and hipness which doesn’t convey the reality that innovation is about more than sharing big ideas, it also requires commitment, collaboration, and a willingness to invite and encourage diversity. These are instrumental ingredients in driving innovative solutions. Today leaders must be open to fostering an inclusive environment where teams and organizations welcome and invite individuals from different backgrounds to contribute unique and diverse insights in helping to produce purposeful and profitable solutions. As a leader, how do you welcome and encourage diverse and unique perspectives on your team? One way to offer innovative and inclusive solutions is to encourage staff to step out of organizational and departmental silos and engage in cross-functional engagement by being open to sharing their distinctive expertise with each other. By embracing diversity, collaboration, and openness, teams can generate groundbreaking approaches to address pressing organizational, customer, and societal challenges.


Exercise:

  1. Reflecting on Failure: Take a moment to reflect on a recent failure or setback you have experienced in your professional life. Write down three key lessons you learned from that experience and how it has influenced your approach to innovation.

  2. Failure Sharing Circle: Organize a team meeting where each member shares a story of a failure they have encountered in their work. Encourage everyone to discuss the lessons learned and how they have grown from those experiences. Use this exercise as an opportunity to foster a culture that embraces failure as a pathway to innovation.

Questions:

  • How do you create an environment where failure is viewed as a learning opportunity rather than a source of fear or judgment?

  • What strategies can you implement as a leader to ensure that the lessons learned from failure are effectively communicated and shared within the organization?

  • How can you embrace failure and integrate the lessons learned into the innovation process to drive continued growth and breakthrough ideas?

We'd love to hear from you!

Share your experiences in the comments below with how embracing failure and the lessons you've learned propelled you on a leadership journey toward innovation and personal growth.

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