Lotsa positive talk about failing lately

product idea FAIL!
New Product FAIL!

I don’t think I have ever in my life felt so encouraged to fail as I have lately. It’s a little counter-intuitive for me, I have to admit. I keep hearing it in the office regularly as we try to develop new programming here at MaRS (pilot, fail, tweak, repeat) and I keep seeing it in my daily reading — from the Globe and Mail to Fail Blog. Then there’s the double whammy when the people in our office show up in my daily reading.

A few weeks ago, Charles Plant discussed failure and risk as it relates to innovation in this Report on Business article, and this week in the Globe, our own entrepreneur-in-residence Ron Close took on the topic of “How to embrace risk and innovation.” Ron not only shares his thoughts on entrepreneurship, but the more ambiguous act of intrapreneurship, or innovating within a larger organization.

In either case, his comments are a great reminder that we often get so caught up in the anxiety of taking a risk on a new idea, that we don’t invest the time and effort necessary to de-risk the opportunity from all angles:

“…excellent point about innovators not really feeling like risk-takers. This is also my experience. Entrepreneurs and innovators work VERY hard to think through all elements of their plan. They spend sleepless hours contemplating what ‘might go wrong’ and thinking about potential remedies to each scenario, in order to effectively ‘de-risk’ their plan… I think it’s a mistake to view entrepreneurs as risk-takers. Most of the successful ones work hard to minimize ANY risk to success. You nail it when you suggest that companies should encourage people to come forth with ideas to do things better, smarter, faster, cheaper … or to create something new. We don’t really want to encourage ‘risk-taking’ as an end objective in itself. There’s a difference.”

In a time when many are feeling risk-averse and just wishing to lay low and ride hard times out, it’s becoming clearer that the ones who will be on top in the next couple of years are those who are sticking their neck out right now and taking the opportunity to try something new. And hey, if you are already at the bottom, then it’s just a shorter distance to fall!