Making Innovation an Expectation & Celebrating Failure as Learning
Try this at your company…
At the end of every meeting the chairperson should set aside 15 minutes for anyone who is exploring a new idea. If no one has anything to say they are told that they are not doing their job. This process, followed consistently, produces a stream of new ideas and creative thinking.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, used to insist that every meeting include an exchange of new ideas or new techniques.
A “forgive and remember” learning culture…
We celebrated mistakes at a management gathering with 1,000 people in the room. A manager would get up and say why the environmentally sensitive light bulb or whatever it was…had failed…Then we’d give them $1,000 or a TV or something, depending on the scale of the thing. The point was to share the learning and get smarter as an organization. – Jack Welch
An early experience…
Kirsty Wark: “I understand one of the first things you did at GE was blow up the plant you were working in and that it had a profound effect on you. Can you explain?”
Jack Welch: “I did accidentally blow up the plant, yes. I was about 25 and had been experimenting with a different mixture. There was an explosion. I was scared stiff when I went to the manager. But, he was mainly curious as to why I had done what I had done and what I had learnt from it. ‘Would the process I was trying have worked,’ is what interested him!
That real encouragement to get it right rather than a punishment did have a profound effect on me, yes.”
The Innovation Machine at Google
Given the strategy to let a thousand flowers bloom, many products are bound to fail. However, Google executives appear to be undeterred by failure. In fact, Schmidt encourages it: “Please fail very quickly—so that you can try again” is how he described his outlook to the Economist. Similarly, Page told Fortune that he had praised an executive who made a several-million-dollar blunder: “‘I’m so glad you made this mistake. Because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk.’” Needless to say, that level of risk tolerance is rare in corporations, despite the widespread belief that error and innovation go hand in hand.
— Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine, Harvard Business Review April 2008