Strategies for Learning from Failure
Strategies for Learning from Failure
The society today is highly competitive. The society categorizes individuals and organizations as either winners or losers. Rarely is Failure on objectively reflected on by the society, individuals or even by organizations. This habit has led to the development of misguided perceptions about failure where most belief that failure is all wrong. However, working at Perry’s Ice Cream Limited suggests otherwise. Failure is sometimes negative, but more often than not failure is healthy and constructive.
The fallacy that failure is only undesirable has led to the development of a workforce and a society full of constrained imagination. Intelligent failure only encourages an individual to explore experiment and learn from each fruitless endeavor till the firm attains the best outcome. Experimentation, creativity and the desire to learn are all traits that every effective leader must foster in an organization. To encourage such qualities, a leader must also be logical enough to accept that these traits can only be encouraged if only they do not rush to punish failure, but acknowledge it as a means to promote the learning culture.
For any leader to appreciate the effectiveness of this perspective, of the positivity of failure, it requires a deep commitment to inquiry, objectivity, patience and tolerance. In recent years, working at Perry’s Ice Cream Limited, a firm in New York that produces and distributes ice-cream, made it clearer on the positive impact of encouraging failure and its contribution to the success of any business. (Perry’s Ice Cream, 1).
Perry’s Ice Cream management encourages blameless reporting where the workers mistakes are analyzed and evaluated on more than just right or wrong basis. Mistakes at Perry’s Ice Cream were also evaluated based on their contribution to the welfare of the worker regarding knowledge and learning.
Firstly, failure promotes hard work. Until an organization is exposed to chances of failing, the firm merely pushes itself to its real potential. Then, the organization and the whole workforce has little or no option than to work hard to evade the impending danger of failure. It is on the brink of failure that organizations are most efficient. At such desperate times, the resources are used in the most productive manner, and the management makes the most optimal decision.
During the year 1996, Perry’s Ice Cream Limited was on the verge of collapsing (Amy, 2). It was failing. The firm was recording losses. The management was in a position that called for sensible measures that would help resuscitate the collapsing business. They, therefore, hired a consultancy that diagnosed the problem of the firm. Most of its units were functioning very well individually, but there were poor communication and coordination among its department. The lack of coordination translated to over production, late deliveries, mismatched in deliveries and invoicing among other minor mistakes that summed up to heavy losses. Perry’s Ice Cream Ltd leadership used the information to remedy its poor performance and also to improve on all its other operations. It used this new drive to push its workforce to work harder and more efficiently. In the year 1997, the firm recorded its highest profits up to date. Its failures were its motivation for success (Amy, 5). Able to learn from the mistakes in the organization, the leaders of the firm rather than seeking to punish the failure used it as a tool to evaluate and adjust to the need for better inter-department coordination. Through this adjustment, the firm was able to achieve even greater performance than previous years.
Secondly failure encourages innovation. In an organization, routine operations can be the source of failure. In such cases, the failure is predictable and can easily be identified. However, the corrections of routine errors call for creativity and innovation. Such failure in the routine operation can only be corrected by new ways or new technology of executing the same tasks.
In the recent years, competition in the ice cream industry has been fierce. Several firms have joined the market. Over the years, market share for Perry’s Ice Cream Ltd has continually decreased due to the competitive nature of the market. The standard ice cream production technique had seen little growth in the number of sales. All the new firms in the market produce the same ice cream flavors and thus, the leadership of the company understood that the firm needed to secure its niche in the market through differentiation of its product from the rest. The failure of the traditional ice cream recipes had led to the workers and the management investing in research and development. This strategy would help Perry’s Ice Cream to come up with a new product that would ensure the firm stayed relevant and secured its market. The failure of the ordinary method led to the company realizing the essence of coming up with a new product. Thus, failure contributed to the realization of this necessity that ultimately resulted in the growth of the Perry’s Ice Cream Limited (Amy, 7).
Thirdly failure encourages persistence in both the workforce and the management. More often than not a success only comes after repetitive trials. A good example is a case when Perry’s Ice Cream Ltd was attempting to come up with a new product that would set it apart from all other firms that were competing with the same competitors. During the search for the innovative product, Perry’s Ice Cream Limited had to make multiple attempts to find the best product that would appeal to its target market. The leadership encouraged the team in charge of product innovation to continue experimenting with new recipes through both moral and financial support despite the many unsuccessful attempts. Finally, the constant persistence after every failure paid off, and the firm was able to develop a new ice-cream flavor that is its flagship product. The new product was different from the other products in the market thus appealing to new customers and also cutting a niche for itself since the new product was unlike the others.
Embracing failure encourages an organization to take risks. An organization that embraces risks and learns from them is open to the new suggestion that may bring better returns to the firm. Such a company takes risks that enable it to scale greater heights in its performance. Companies that do not embrace failure put so much effort in the precaution against such failure that they end up in a dormant state with little if any growth.
Perry’s Ice Cream had to consider investing in a high-risk high-return project that involved exporting of its product to a country that produced local product at a cheaper price. The firm had to consider the risk that it would lose its investment if the product failed to attract the target market. However, Perry’s Ice Created had acknowledged the risk compared to the returns it would make if it managed to sell its product to the exclusive community in the foreign country (Amy, 9). Perry’s Ice Cream Ltd was able to accomplish this, and the returns were very high. The leadership of the firm was only able to reach its potential by acknowledging that failure is at times inevitable, and that should not hinder the quest for success.
However, in analyzing failure, we must also recognize that failure to some extent should not be encouraged. No leader should accommodate consistent failure in any organization. To promote the learning culture, the firm should learn to portray failure both a positive and a negative attribute. If left unchecked, companies cannot succeed if the workers perceive failure as an acceptable outcome just like any other. For this reason, should establish precise measure and guidelines to ensure only a productive amount of failure is accommodate to encourage learning, development and growth of the entire organization.
The proper approach to analyzing failure can, is, therefore, one that establishes an informed judgment based on the demerits and merits of the same. Failure leads to better performance in an organization where a leader can recognize the proper way to implement it as a tool for learning. Failure encourages hard work, persistence, innovation and risk taking that ultimately contributes largely to the growth of worker and the welfare of the organization as a whole. Leaders who use failure effectively, putting in place control measures encourage learning in their organizations. A society that embraces the positive outcomes that can come along with failure also nature’s individuals who are more innovative and less worried about failure. Thus, it is more likely to succeed.
Amy C. Edmondson. Strategies for learning from failure. 2rd April 2011. Web. 07 December 2015.< https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure>
Perry’s Ice Cream. News & views: the inside scoop. 23 January 2015. Web. 12 December 2015.<http://www.perrysicecream.com/>