an interview with Ian Bromwich and Lionel Hill.

The secret to why failure is important for success and how learning from failure in business is where innovation starts.

The fear of doing things wrong is real. It can show up in every area of our lives, but learning to face the fear of failure can transform your approach to business innovation – because learning from failure in business is where success lies. When risks are managed and acknowledged freely within a culture that encourages open and honest dialogue, it can drive fast and world changing innovations.

We spoke to two transformational leaders to discover how conquering the fear of failure can open up opportunities to uncover the next big thing and help your business stay competitive.

This blog is a quick-read summary from our TIG Culture magazine article, ‘Why brilliant people fail brilliantly,’ which you are welcome to download here

A Step into the Unknown

Innovation is a gamble. Great discoveries inevitably have failures along the way. It has been suggested that James Dyson produced more than a thousand prototypes of his famous vacuum cleaner before he settled on his final design. Failure must be accepted as part of the innovation process. Whether your business is delivering products or services – if you are not failing, then you are not innovating. This is why failure is important for success.

This doesn’t mean that you should take risks without planning and evaluating outcomes. You need to understand your organisation’s tolerance to risk taking – and define how much risk is too much. How far do you want to adopt a ‘fail fast, fail often’ mindset?

“I would say there are three pieces to that mindset: one, fail fast. Two, fail cheaply, because who wants an expensive failure on their hands? And third, never fail to learn. Whatever they are, these failures must be lean and quick, not huge existential failures. Learn from them, then move on, and don’t repeat the same thing over and over again.”  

Lionel Hill 

Discover more about creating the right balance of Fear, Fact and Faith here

Celebrate Failure 

This might sound an odd suggestion – to revel in disaster and cheer on those with a hand in it – but it is an essential part of the innovation process. Your organisation needs to have a clearly defined culture that embraces transparency, openness and honesty.  Your people need to feel confident that they can admit when things haven’t gone as planned without blame, so that you can recognise how to improve things next time. 

“We were seen as weird and shut away in a back office with little interaction with the rest of the business. That kind of environment for an innovator was a shock. I moved from creativity and experimentation to answering questions such as “why do you want to take that risk? How are you going to mitigate it? What outcomes can we expect?” I was bombarded with dozens of governance questions before we could begin anything, which didn’t necessarily kill innovation, but it slowed everything down.”

Ian Bromwich

Learn and Evolve – why failure is important for success

So many organisations begin the process of innovation and either stop or neglect it to grasp how their world is changing. If your competitors see it, then you had better see it too. It really is true that you must evolve or die. A careful and considered approach to taking risks, an open culture that understands how to learn from mistakes quickly, can ensure a business remains competitive.

“A test and learn mindset that starts small, develops quickly, and removes blockers step by step, rather than shooting for the moon as so many people think innovation has to be.”

Ian Bromwich

If organisations want to embrace their innovative spirit, they must conquer their fear of failure – this is why failure is important to business success. 

Want to find out more about innovation cycles and how you can create an agile, adaptable approach to innovation? A space where you can learn from failure in business.

Lionel Hill is the Global Chief Technology Officer at the private equity firm Permira. Prior to joining Permira, Lionel worked for Revantage Europe, a Blackstone company, as Europe CTO for three years. He previously spent six years with CBRE and 10 years with UBS in technology roles.

Ian Bromwich is the UK CIO and Managing Director for Retail, Private and Commercial Banking at HSBC, technology investor and advisory CTO. He has spent his entire career in technology, and mainly in financial services for firms including Egg, Alliance & Leicester, Lloyds, Barclays and RSA Insurance Group PLC. Prior to that he founded and ran a start-up at the earliest days of the internet in 1996, which he sold to Morse PLC, a Footsie 250 company.

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