Saturday, August 07, 2010

When Failure is Tolerable

My co-editor pointed out an interesting post yesterday in the blog section of Harvard Business Review titled When Failure is Intolerable. The gist of the post is that while there is value in “positive failure,” there are also times when failure should be considered unacceptable. In the midst of making his argument, though, Scott Anthony brings up an important point — that part of the reason organizations (and the individuals who work for them) fear failure is because “Too frequently people reward (or punish) outcomes when they should reward (or punish) behaviors.” There’s a lot of truth in that; workers tend to act conservatively because they fear being scolded (or fired) for bold initiatives that don’t work out as planned. As a result, there’s a lot less innovation than there should be — or could be. Organizations need to empower individuals to push the envelope, with the understanding that things will not always unfold as planned.

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