If you want to encourage people to take healthy risks, you need to make sure they’re not afraid to fail. The first step in doing that is defining what a smart failure — a thoughtful and well-planned project that for some reason didn’t work — looks like. Chances are that everyone in your organization knows what success is. Far fewer know what a smart failure is. Specify what guidelines, approaches, or processes characterize smart risk taking. Provide clear examples of both smart failures and dumb failures and discuss why they’re different. Point out what the smart ones have in common, so people know how to structure their experiments. If you don’t define it, all failure looks risky and that kind of mindset will kill creativity.
Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “To Increase Innovation, Take the Sting Out of Failure” by Doug Sundheim.