Failure has gotten a bad rap. After all, the path to success is inevitably paved with failure. Yet some organizations let fear of failure keep them from taking the kinds of chances that can yield big wins.
I touched upon this a few weeks ago when I cited a silicon.com column written by Colin Ashurt, in which he described failure's place in a proper project portfolio management approach. While organizations understandably experience difficulty investing in projects that don't yield obvious benefits, it's important to allocate some IT budget and resources to them. Wrote Ashurt:
They won't all work -- but some of them will provide valuable new innovations that will lead to strategic projects later on. If they fail, better they fail now, having had minimal investment, than later after much more would be at stake.
You can maximize the odds of success -- or at least limit the impact of failure -- by keeping teams and budgets small and deadlines short, he advised.
One company that is apparently comfortable with the concept of failure is Google. Writing on Search Insider, Kaila Colbin shares some insights pulled from BusinessWeek interviews with members of Google's core search and ranking teams. During weekly project meetings, Google encourages staffers to discuss failures in a non-critical way to figure out how to apply the lessons learned. Udi Manber, Google's VP of Technology for Core Search told BusinessWeek's Rob Hof:
The crux of those meetings is usually: what's wrong, how can we fix it, how can we use this insight to do other things... what people try to achieve from those talks is to try to discover some things that may not work well and try to use what they've done in other areas.
While I've been critical of some aspects of Google's corporate culture in the past, the company's attitude toward failure is one we should all emulate.