Success out of Failure: KPMG Guest Blog- Looking for another word for failure

Research on highly effective teams and organisations shows that one quality that helps them progress to great heights is the ability to reflect and learn.  When it comes to innovation, it is especially important to learn from failure.  If you want your organisation to be innovative, failure must not be a dirty word or no-one will dare to take a risk with a new idea.

Heather Bewers, Director of Innovation at KPMG, Innovation Group LIVE’s sponsors, shares her thoughts on failure. She’s looking for another word for failure.

Most peoples’ perception of a professional services firm which specialises in audit, tax and advisory is that it is not a particularly creative place. They would be wrong in their main conclusion as it happens but right in at least one respect – experimentation or being prepared to fail is not a comfortable tactic for many of us. It is, after all, not what our clients choose us for – although many clients are in fact seeking a different, more effective solution which demands an element of innovation in how we approach it

But in the innovation team we do distinguish between ‘good failure’ – experimenting with different approaches in

  • a safe (in the regulatory as well as commercial sense);
  • effective (abort quickly when we don’t get the result we want); and
  • valuable (identify and build on the learnings) way

from ‘bad failure’ – simply doing a bad job – either as a result of poor planning, or execution or not thinking through the consequences.

Engaging staff in providing ideas is a classic example of learnings in particular – we are currently on our fourth iteration of seeking ideas from our people having learnt from the earlier approaches that:

  • it is essential to provide feedback, acknowledgement and progress to those who have provided ideas
  • those who provide ideas are not always keen or well placed to implement them
  • to assume that everyone shares a common view of what is a ‘good’ idea is not always helpful
  • recognition rather than monetary reward is a key motivator.

We now look for ideas on a campaign  by campaign basis, engaging a relevant audience around real world issues – a world away from our earlier suggestion schemes.

The one thing I am still looking for however is an alternative word for failure – it would make my life so much easier if there was a term with more positive connotations! Any suggestions gratefully received…

  • Katherine William-Powlett’s blog
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