Dilbert - Creativity


One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘How do Leaders foster a culture that embraces failure?’ Like anything with culture, it’s mostly about working the ethos into what the Leadership says and does. When the executives (a) ‘say’ that it embraces culture, and then follows that up with (b) ‘actions’ that demonstrate its sincerity, then this Leadership has a huge impact on people’s perceptions and behaviours that make up the culture.

Amy Edmonson explored this subject in depth with her HBR “Failure Issue” article “Strategies for Learning from Failure”. Her sidebar “How Leaders Can Build A Psychologically Safe Environment” enumerated the following recipe for a failure embracing culture…

  • Frame the work accurately
  • Embrace messengers
  • Acknowledge limits
  • Invite participation
  • Set boundaries (and hold people accountable to them)

The HBR issue also includes a case study by Doug Rauch, President of Trader Joe’s which talked about his building a failure tolerant culture and his role as leader…

“In my zeal to control everything, I failed to notice that is was time to take off the training wheels and let the new staff members grow into their roles. The effect was stifling, especially on our buyers, the heart of our organisation. I had always said that a buying team that doesn’t make mistakes isn’t worth a damn, yet I wasn’t letting them make their own mistakes…Luckily for me, one intrepid senior buyer helped me to put a stop to all this. She approached me and said, ‘You’re driving us crazy. You’ve got to back off. We’ll make mistakes, but you’ve got to let us go.’ “