Successful Entrepreneurs Make Mistakes To Discover New Approaches, Opportunities And Business Models

“To me success can be achieved only through repeat failure and introspection”     – Soichiro Honda, Founder of Honda Motor Company

Unfortunately too many firms I worked for motivated performance with fear of failure. Their attitude was that it better be perfect the first time. But I have learned over the years that failure is part of the learning process.

In the Harvard Business Review Peter Sims agrees. In The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure, Sims observes that many MBA-trained executives are never given permission to fail and industrial management is mostly built on mitigating risks and preventing errors, not innovating or inventing. Yet Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research that successful entrepreneurs make decisions by making lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models.

The way you handle failure is the corner stone of success. Having no room for failure means you have no room for progress. In another HBR article, Whitney Johnson advises how to Put Failure in It’s Place. Johnson says, “Implicit in daring to disrupt the status quo is daring to fail. As we learn by doing and do by learning something will eventually (and inevitably) not work.” How do we not let failure take us down?

  1. Acknowledge sadness: Grieving is an important part of the process. If you suppress sadness, you risk losing your passion, which is the essential engine of innovation.
  2. Jettison shame: Failure doesn’t limit innovation – shame does. Pull shame out of the process to gain the lift you need to get back to daring and dreaming.
  3. Learn the right lesson: What valuable truth did you discover by failing? The lesson isn’t to never pursue a dream again, but to gain valuable insights that will help the next idea succeed.

The difference between winners and losers is winners have accepted failure, learned from it and move on. Losers never enter the game for fear of failure or the first failure stops them dead in their tracks. Need more proof? Here is a list of famous failures turned success by Business Insider:

  • Walt Disney was told a mouse would never work.
  • J.K. Rowling was on welfare.
  • Oprah Winfrey was told she was “unfit for T.V.”
  • Jerry Seinfeld was booed off-stage.
  • Sidney Poitier was told to become a dishwasher.
  • Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school three times.
  • The Beatles were dropped by their record label.
  • Steven King received 30 rejections for “Carrie.”
  • Michael Jordan was cut form his high school basketball team.
  • Steve Jobs was removed from the company he started.

Failure isn’t time to stop, it’s time to learn. Anything worth having is not easy. Join the winners that own their failures and learn from it. The reality of our world today is we all must be lifelong learners. Are you not allowing yourself to fail and limiting your future success?

Do You Look For Wrongs Or Rights? Social Media Works for B2B.

Over the course of my career I have worked in many different office environments. Advertising agencies have unique cultures, but inside of the general category they vary greatly. But you’ve probably noticed these characteristics in your office or in yourself. Some people always look for what is wrong with an idea, a proposal, campaign, project, etc. Their first inclination is that there must be something wrong and you get the sense they enjoy finding flaws (no matter how minor) and enjoy shooting entire ideas down for it. Have you ever had a boss, a co-worker, or worked for an entire company with that mentality? How many innovative ideas or programs ever saw the light of day? The fear of failure rules those cultures. Expressing your concern, puts you on the record as spotting a flaw in case it does see the light of day and fails – you’ve covered your but. All the while these same people read about successes in the trade press and wonder why they can never get there.

On the other hand, I have worked for and with people who embrace risk over safety, because they know that is where greater reward is to be found. In fact, they know if people find a lot of reasons not to do something, that is a sign that it could be great. Social Media in general falls into this category, because it represents such a dramatic shift in thinking. Marketers must give up control. No one is really concerned about running another newspaper ad, but letting your consumers talk for you, or your employees is a risk. But the truth is they are doing it anyway. Don’t get me wrong, any plan should be vetted and optimized to follow best practices and increase the chance for success. But that kind of thinking comes from finding the “rights” of the idea first, before the “wrongs.”

Sometimes embracing the risk of social media to gain reward requires more than approval, but a change in policy. I once worked for a client that wanted social media ideas. We listened and presented innovative ways to share valuable information (they already had, but very little were using) via social media networks that would utilize their managers and help them generate sales leads through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They loved the idea, the only problem was that they had a corporate policy to block social media access on managers computers. End of idea – back to cold calls. The eMarketer chart above shows the percent of marketers who have overcome outdated policies and are using social media to generate leads and sales.

A recent article in Forbes speaks to this issue. It is written by bank CEO Frank Sorrentino and he calls other bank CEO’s to join him in social media – many in the financial industry are not there. He acknowledges the risks, but points out that you can learn ways to manage them. On the other hand, Sorrentino warns that there are risks in not joining social media. If you are looking for reasons not to do social media (wrongs), you will find plenty. But I encourage you to change your focus and look for the reasons to do social media (rights) – that is the only way you will reap its rewards.