In this episode of Hooray for Failure we chat with Seattle-based, Jake Johnson, the Director of Brand Experience at Phinney Bischoff who wrote an amazing blog post at Medium about his son’s response to failure. We explore fear of failure, the failure associated with learning as a child, and the way in which society at large demonizes failure. It was a true pleasure to spend time with him (twice!! thanks to the less-than wonderful wonders of modern technology). We also share that paragon of entrepreneurial spirit, Richard Branson’s perspective on failure, too.
Sorry for the delay in getting the most recent innochat transcript posted. The challenge associated with connecting while on the road was greater than anticipated. Needless to say I didn’t expect to be looking at Uluru (aka. Ayers Rock) in the middle of Australia as I type this, but here I am.
Thanks for your patience. Attached is the transcript from the “Innovation Backwards?” chat, which was incredibly well positioned thanks to the great framing post from Caroline Di Diego and excellent moderation by Renee Hopkins.
A favorite tweet from this week’s post? This insight from Jose Briones:
The biggest issue is that in most cases picking winners from the ideation process really means picking favorites.
Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean you should
Any measurement must take into account the position of the observer. There is no such thing as measurement absolute, there is only measurement relative.
– Jeneatte Winterson
One of the great challenges for those focused on improving their organization’s innovation culture is the desire, at the end of the day, to be able to point to something and say, “that’s better than it was before.” That desire, to measure our performance against an agreed upon set of measures, is not a bad thing. The way that need is acted out in the organization is where it comes undone. This is most problematic when the push is to measure in purely financial terms.
The drive to see some kind of return on innovation investment has a strong pull. In a time when every penny, cent, fen, or kopek is being counted with scrupulous accuracy, the notion of not counting the programmatic contribution of innovation in monetary terms seems ludicrous. Unfortunately, if you were going to spend money on a program that offered fast return on your investment, spending on changing your innovation culture would not be the wisest investment. Investing on your innovation culture is a long-term play, as they say. Yet, it should be a focus for investment and it should be measured.
The key initial measures to watch for when building an improved innovation culture are:
Overall we are talking about a process that reduces cycle time.
In fact, the Boston Consulting Group’s 2009 Annual Innovation Report highlighted the fact that cycle time, specifically “time to market,” was one of the most “chronically underutilized metrics” in their survey of companies. Which they also saw as being highly ironic given that many companies identified a lack of speed as their greatest weakness.
I’ll know it when I see it
Our scientific age demands that we provide definitions, measurements, and statistics in order to be taken seriously. Yet most of the important things in life cannot be precisely defined or measured. Can we define or measure love, beauty, friendship, or decency, for example?
– Dennis Prager
Cycle time reduction is a great first measure because it can be applied across all aspects of the innovation processes at play in your organization. From decision-making, to selection of team members, applying the measure of cycle time reduction sharpens the way all innovation is approached. It has a distillation effect. In helping you to focus on speeding up the process of concentrating the right resources on the most beneficial projects, cycle time reduction also demands attention on quality, too.
Poor quality actually results in a systemic drag later in your innovation process. That initial poor quality may also have a knock-on effect, causing an escalation of poor quality further down the line as corners are cut in order to meet the initial cycle time reduction. By managing all cycle times and aligning them with quality practices your organization becomes more robust and resilient. The outcome is not only better performance but faster performance which can be seen across the whole organization.
I can count it but I can’t count on it
The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.
– George Bernard Shaw
In a world of constraints, meting out investments may be a matter of short-term economic survival, but it will not build a foundation for long-term success. To create and improve and innovation culture – a culture that fosters economic expansion and delivers to the top and bottom lines – organizations need to invest in those processes and practices that change behavior. In the post, Working The Processes of Innovation – Learning to Love & Live Failure, we explored the power that comes from building a tolerance for appropriate failure. Recently this was reinforced in Megan McArdle’s piece in Time magazine, In Defense of Failure,
It sounds like a dubious aspiration, but one of the more pressing priorities for America this decade is to preserve our cherished freedom to fail in this country…America allows its citizens room to fail — and if they don’t succeed, to try, try again. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all Americans report that they have considered starting their own business, whereas in Europe that number is only 40%.
Here McArdle talks about the power of this freedom:
McArdle on America\'s Need to Support Failure
How do we measure failure and the power of failure in moving us toward a better, brighter, more abundant future? It should be interesting to note that measuring innovation is also top of mind of one of the world’s most active philanthropists, Bill Gates. His concern is not that we aren’t measuring innovation failure, although he did popularize the concept of “fail forward fast” during his time leading Microsoft, his concern is that most people are failing to measure innovation at all.
When all is said and done – have the right satisfaction measures improved?
Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.
– Winston Churchill
Once again the Boston Consulting Group’s 2009 Annual Innovation Report offers another key insight into the dynamic tension that exists in measuring innovation performance in terms of outcomes. The top measure employed by companies seeking to assess their innovation performance was customer satisfaction but the second highest measure was overall revenue growth. The expense of increasing the former measure would seem to have a direct negative effect on the latter and yet there they are parked beside each other at the top of list of robust measures for innovation performance.
The performance of any innovation truly is measured in the eyes of the customer, be they an internal customer or a market-based customer. Customer satisfaction is the end-of-the-line measure for all innovation. If an innovation cannot drive the performance of that measure then what purpose does it serve? One of the most powerful tools for revealing the impact of an innovation is the Net Promoter® Score (NPS). This concept was first widely made known through the work of Fred Reichheld in his book, The Ultimate Question.
The NPS is both a loyalty metric and a discipline for using customer feedback to directly influence behavior within an organization. One company using NPS to measure its innovation effectiveness is Logitech, the computer peripheral manufacturer, which uses it as the final consumer acceptance testing measure. By using this score Logitech can tweak late-stage products to maximize their effectiveness on release to market. They test. They measure. They tweak. They hold or go to market. It should be noted that the best performing products, with the highest NPS, are also the products with the highest revenue on release.
So, it would seem you can serve one goal with two measures, after all!
There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.
– Enrico Fermi
What have you discovered as you attempt to measure your innovation?