Why Managers Should Encourage On-The-Job Failure

On-the-job FailureThe saying that goes “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die” is quite applicable to how we  manage our careers. Few if any of us go to work everyday thinking about the best way to mess things up, or give the barest possible minimum. No way! We want to do our best; we want to innovate; we want to contribute and make a difference in our respective organizations. What holds us back? The fear of failure. If you commit to that ambitious target with your manager, it’ll come back to bite you in your performance review. If you volunteer to help turnaround an ugly situation and you fail, that might mean the end of your career. Because of this fear, we ‘play it safe’ and miss out on opportunities to create tremendous value for our employers, and rapid career growth for ourselves.

How do we move forward? One of the key things I learnt from the book The Startup Of You is that both entrepreneurs and professionals need to learn to take calculated risks. This way, they would be able to deliver the quantum leaps in value that comes from calculated risk taking.

What about the managers? What can they do? They can throw their weight behind – and celebrate – people who volunteer to tackle serious challenges within the company. This is not just my idea. Jamie Dimon, the current CEO of JP Morgan Chase, had some thoughts about innovation and failure while addressing the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2009:

The full excerpt of his presentation can be found here.

Jeff Immelt is another global business leader that seems to agree with this idea of encouraging on-the-job failure. During his presentation to MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he attributes his current position as CEO of GE to an opportunity he was given to fail:

The full excerpt of Jeff Immelt’s speech can be found here.

How else can we encourage on-the-job failure?

Please be sociable and share!


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