I once had a boss who said "failure is not an option". In this rather sobering post, Jeff Jarvis quotes Craig Newmark who, upon returning from a recent trip to the UK has commented on an apparent culture of failurephobia amongst UK business. In Silicon Valley, says Newmark, failure is just a phase of ones career. I'm not surprised about that, but is failure really that stigmatized in the UK? God I hope not.
Jarvis talks about how granting the license to fail enables the courage to innovate. It is (of-course it is) a cultural thing, so cultures that don't allow failure equally don't tolerate risk. But the courage comes from the individual. I believe that the capacity to originate great ideas exists within everyone in an organisation, but I also believe that there are some people that positively thrive on it. People who might not have the word 'creative' in their job title but who are nonetheless creative thinkers, generative, and bothered enough to go out of their way to create something that wasn't there before.
Business, and especially big business, should be openly embracing these people wherever they sit in their organisations (and now more than ever), but somehow I doubt that that often happens. It's not just about creating the space and taking the risks, it is as much about how a culture defines success as how it handles failure. Too narrow or inflexible a definition does not enable the courage it takes to do something different. As Jeff says, success is as much about not holding perfection as the standard of success as it is about the need to risk and fail.
"Everything has a natural frequency of vibration, i.e. its resonant frequency, including us. Just as a glass smashes when you hit a certain note, so too do we resonate at certain frequencies, seeking and finding meaning in different experiences, clans and value-sets."
There is something here about organisations finding (or enabling) the right 'resonant frequency' for this kind of talent to flourish. Ideas are nothing without action. But they are also nothing without the culture to enable people permission to stand up, stand out, take risks and maybe, just maybe, fail now and then.
I know this has been said before. But its worth saying again. As Jane says, sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. So here's to the crazy ones…