What’s it like when employees know to fear failure at work?
While there will be low, and probably constrained energy, whoever has the most on the line will bear the biggest impact: new ideas stop coming. Employees stop taking risks, and the responsibility for new solutions falls on the highest up.
Working there is probably not a positive experience and there’s a noticeable lack of fun.
Innovation cannot, and will not, exist in this kind of culture.
Language Impacts Idea Generation
The language we use is not only a reflection of our internal states, it also has a significant affect on the culture and energy (and therefore ideas) that an organization experiences. When IDEO, the innovation consultancy, noticed that new ideas could be killed off with as little as an eye roll, they created a very specific feedback loop to keep energy up, ideas flowing, and innovation a constant occurrence.
Amy Poehler thinks so. She has a non-stop reputation for being incredibly nice, smart and hilarious.
She says learning Improv taught her most of what she knows about the best way to run her life as well as any organization. There are three important rules.
1. Say Yes And.
It’s really THE Golden Rule of Improv. She gives a great example of your improv partner walking on stage and saying, “Watch out! There’s a scary alien behind you!” You could say, “What alien? I don’t see an alien.” OR you could say “Oh, that alien over there? That’s my chemistry partner Alison.” Which one is more fun? Which one moves you forward? The Yes answer.
The key to work situations is to add to ideas and contribute…instead of criticizing and killing ideas. Innovation and solving complex problems require a limitless imagination.
2. Don’t Apologize. Admit You Made a Mistake, Applaud Yourself and Move On.
Can you imagine taking all the sting out of making a mistake at work? Imagine how much faster your organization could move forward, and how much more forthcoming people would be. New language would have to be used because mistakes wouldn’t need to be problems anymore – it’s possible there’d be a lot of talk about new learnings!
One of Amy’s teachers required her group to clap when someone admitted to a mistake. I can’t imagine how much my inner dialog would change if all the self-criticism for making mistakes (or almost making mistakes) went away.
Disallowing failure in organizations hinders creativity and growth. If you want to move forward faster, the key is to welcome the new learnings!
The power of saying Yes far outweighs the power of any No. That’s as true in marketing as it is in life.
I’ve taken a few Improv classes, and when you or your partner says Yes, the scene is fun! It might be weird, but it moves forward and it’s fun. When there’s a no, everything slows way down or stops and waits to go in another direction. It’s just awkward to be in and it’s awkward to watch.
Some of my favorite people have written about the power of Yes in life, including Tina Fey and Seth Godin.
Tina Fey wrote about how the Yes occurs in real life as respect or acknowledgement for what your partner brings to the table. It sounds simple, and you can almost miss the significance of it until you remember those conversations where people didn’t even acknowledge your position. They just blasted through with their own agenda. Their No just killed your willingness to participate in the conversation. You might continue because you have to, but the No can function like a pretty big spirit killer.
I’ve worked toward and I’ve worked against. Working toward something is way more satisfying and enlivening.
When you’re working toward something, there’s a sense of anticipation, a vision, there are steps you can take to make something happen, and there’s something to share, generate ideas for and talk about. Working toward something is engaging in creation, and so is often experienced as something like power.
Working against, on the other hand, is to stop something from happening. When you consider something not happening, you are working with something that doesn’t yet exist and you try to keep it out of existence. Doing anything is inherently creative, so the best you can do is create something else, which actually serves a purpose other than what it was created for. There’s no such thing as generating ideas to make something not happen. In other words, there’s no such thing in existence as non-existence.
To work powerfully, you have to work toward something.
The same is true in life. The pursuit will be dissatisfying, powerless and endless if all you do is try and “not be” a failure or “not be” fat or “not be” anything! “Not be” doesn’t exist!
Once I got that all I could do (in existence) was to create, I found a whole bunch more I could do and a whole bunch more I had to take responsibility for.
People who want to cause behavior know that the way to significantly increase the chances of causing that is to integrate required accountability. At work, for example, the monthly report isn’t due “whenever” and just keep it on file, it’s due on or before a certain date and submit it to a certain manger.
Marketers create accountability to others by introducing opportunities to:
- Track and share athletic performance (like the Jawbone)
- Redeem by a certain date
- Earn points for verified purchases
Once you commit to someone outside of yourself, it seems to become more real. The external stimuli will raise your game and improve the chances of you completing something.
When you’re just playing in your own field, on your own schedule, it all mostly stays in your head – and you can change the game and due dates any time you want.
If you have a personal goal, a way to raise your game is to get someone to be accountable to – to commit to projects and due dates. It will enliven the game and your projects will have as much relevance as the games others create for you.
Successful companies that chug along without major issues never get to enjoy the benefits of major loss. Yes, the Benefits of Major Loss. With a big loss, comes big clarity.
In late June, someone in a large, older SUV sped through a red light as I was crossing the green in my little Honda. Another couple of feet and a T-Bone into the driver’s side – and I might not be writing a story today.
The impact was powerful. I was in a kind of shock for several days and I never had a lingering moment of anger about it. In fact, as soon as I got irritated about my car being called a “total loss” and being challenged to find a trusty replacement, I’d remember that I lived through it …that I survived. It was impossible to feel anger.
What I got coming face to face with death and total loss, is the visceral knowing in my bones that death can come at any moment. As I have that awareness without anger or fear or resentment, I have clarity about what matters and what I want to experience while I’m here.
It might be that without the inevitability of the end, there’s no pressing need to reassess goals and actions. We all think a smooth ride is what we want, maybe what we’re due, but the clarity and perspective of a brush with total loss provides peace and direction. Then it’s a matter of holding on the the awareness and taking action consistent with what’s most important.
A good marketer will help you see what really matters to you, the community and your business and will steer away from the millions of fun, trendy or flashy things you Can Do. Let total loss be a possibility. You will be less distracted by the trendy, smooth talking marketers offering the very latest -who don’t listen and don’t know what really matters.