Do you take risks? Big risks, or small risks? If you’re like me you take calculated risks. Ones where I feel fairly confident I’ll be successful. I must admit, I’m pretty confident, but do I have a fear of failing?
Recently, I attended the DST Advance Conference. This was a multi-day, multi-track event with top industry speakers and panelists providing many key takeaways. However, given my role and ongoing quest for innovation, the speaker that left the biggest impression on me was not an industry expert at all, but rather an artist.
Eric Wahl is an internationally recognized graffiti artist and best-selling author who incorporates his business background and artistic talent into corporate speaking engagements. He delivered not only an interesting keynote, but a thought provoking show.
As I sat, captivated by a mesmerizing scene of pure artistry and creativity by a modern day Picaso, set to the sound of Bono’s “It’s a Beautiful Day,” I couldn’t help but think:
- Do we take enough risks in our jobs?
- Do we have the mentality “Fail first, fail often?!”
- Or, are we more likely to respond to ideas with every reason why that idea won’t work?
During his presentation, Wahl challenged us to allow our creativity to flow without fear of failure. As children, we create through play as we have little to no experience with failure, and therefore, our ideas are uninhibited -as illustrated here in my daughter Mia’s artwork. Mia’s innocence and freedom to create something that reflected her own personal style without adhering to preconceived expectations is priceless. As we get older, we often inhibit our creativity as experience tells us all the reasons why the idea won’t work. It’s time to reawaken our childhood creativity!
Every day in business and in life we are faced with the challenge to proceed without fear of failing. As a product manager, I’m continually faced with identifying product opportunities that are profitable, valuable to our clients and come with reasonable risk. But, it does take risk to move these product ideas forward. For me, the exciting challenge is figuring out how to present opportunities to the executive team illustrating that the opportunity is good for business and the reward offsets the risk.
One of our most profitable new businesses came with risk. Despite having a strong business case that captured critical factors such as market analysis, value proposition, market differentiators, growth projections and financial benefits it failed due to risk. As a matter of fact, my second and third pitch didn’t make it over the finish line either. With each pitch, I had takeaway lessons that helped balance the market demand with a risk profile that was acceptable to the enterprise. And in the end, I didn’t have much to lose; ‘persistent’ could have been the worst adjective used to describe me.
So, maybe I’m really not afraid to fail after all. And, yes, I believe that every great business has risks.
As business solutions providers, our success depends upon us building and amplifying trust with our clients. Instead of measuring success by starting with economic results, we need to determine what matters to our customers in terms of building their trust, and drive idea creation towards exceeding their expectations.
Will we fail from time to time? Yes, but as Wahl explained through his work, we need to reprogram our minds…to look for ways to build back an emotional connection for customer loyalty. If we fail nine times out of 10, chances are that one success story could be a game changer!