One of the main problems that companies face is the fear of failure.
Most people often don’t do it because they are afraid of making a mistake. If we look at the origins of this problem, we can disperse ourselves in several directions, such as the old educational system, the reward system in companies, and so on. It would be difficult to reach a serious conclusion that would gain the consensus of most people.
But after all, why is it so important not to be afraid of failure?
If you think about it, risk is not rewarded in our companies in most cases. Instead, people are penalized when they fail and often are not rewarded with equal energy when they do things well.
It always reminds me of what my Father used to tell me when I was little and brought a good grade on a test.
I would usually ask him:
“Hey, Dad, when my classmates bring in an A’s, their parents give them a gift. So why don’t you give it to me?”
I know today that it was more because money was not abundant in our house, and we couldn’t “stretch” for everything, but my Father usually answered:
“Why? Isn’t studying your job?”
And with that, I would shut up.
It seems that there is a very complex problem in companies because we can spend a lifetime doing well, but when we do poorly for the first time, “the carmel and the trinity falls” and we never, or hardly, raise our heads again.
Maybe this is the problem with the lack of entrepreneurs in Portugal.
People are so risk-averse that they hardly ever embark on a career or job creation to put their security at stake.
The worst thing is that people make companies. People are shaped by their experiences and the society around them. All this generates “gray” companies that don’t innovate or take risks in flights with greater commercial or strategic profitability.
One of the things that struck me most recently was a story I read in the Times a few months ago.
The story related the experience of an American executive who caused a loss to the company of about 1 million dollars due to a management error.
Aware of the trouble he had caused the company, he decided to write his resignation letter and presented it to his boss the next day.
The surprise is in the boss’s reaction.
Instead of turning to him and accepting the resignation letter, he replied as follows.
“Dear Mr. Smith, I am very sorry, but I cannot accept your resignation!”
As is evident, Mr. Smith stood with his mouth open, looking at him with a look of astonishment.
“Do you think that after having invested $1 million in your education and training I am going to let you go?”
It is undoubtedly a somewhat different perspective than the one we are used to in our companies.
I’m not saying that you cultivate risk for risk’s sake. Still, if you look at the companies on the crest of the wave internationally like Google, Microsoft, and others, many of them have incentive plans for risk and innovation.
Why not create something similar, but at our scale, in our companies?
First of all, we have to make room for people to talk!
Create forums and systems to take advantage of all the knowledge that is usually wasted.
Whatever the team, there is always intellectual capital that should be used and analyzed.
Surely you know the story of the 3M “post-it”.
If you don’t, look it up on the Internet, it’s worthwhile. But what if this idea had been wasted?
Too often, as leaders, we are so “knee-deep” in our problems and projects and fiscal deficits that we don’t stop to step out of the picture and see where the organization is losing one of the greatest capitals it can have: the intellectual capital and the willingness of its people to take risks.
Setting up a process like this in companies is not always complicated. It can be as simple as a monthly company-wide or, if the scale is immense, departmental meeting where people are encouraged to talk openly.
The only premise is that when they present a problem, they must also submit a solution to it or to someone else’s problem that has already been posed.
You can even take a flipchart and create two columns. For example, on the left, write “Problem”, and on the right write “Opportunity.”
Then fill in the solutions people give you.
Leave the flipchart in a passing place for those that remain unanswered, such as the cafeteria, bar, or another area, and encourage people to write it down as they pass by and if they think of a solution.
You will see that innovative ideas and proposals will quickly begin to emerge, and your company will become even more competitive in your market.
Also published on Medium.