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Creating a culture where failure is the first step in successful innovation
“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Changing the culture of an entire company or other large organisation begins in the mind of each individual person. When recruiting, businesses need to find ways of identifying and attracting people who break new ground, challenge what they’re told and dare to do things that may seem impossible at first glance. Of course, this is easier in some industries than in others: in science, for example, the trial and error method is an established part of the process. But even in traditionally failure-averse industries, change is coming. Another EY study showed that more than 80 percent of people in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) think embracing failure on a project will help them to become more innovative, while 17 percent believe it will make them more comfortable with taking risks.
Naturally, embracing failure starts at the top. Management teams have to encourage open and transparent communication, while actively demanding and exploring new ideas. Instead of hiding mistakes, employees should report all failures and analyse them in detail to learn as much as possible. Companies should also encourage fast failure, where new ideas are tried without delay but quickly abandoned if success becomes unlikely. Grünenthal is building a culture where mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process. In fact, this spirit is integrated into the company’s Values & Behaviours, which encourage employees to live entrepreneurship by exploring new paths and taking smart risks. This helps employees to understand failure as an opportunity to achieve success – and as the first step on the journey towards turning smart ideas into life-changing solutions for patients around the world.