How to Fail in Order to Succeed

The commerce space is filled with shiny objects – mainly in the form of new technologies (looking at you, AI) – that are doing their part in distracting companies from the low-hanging fruit that could be seriously benefiting their bottom lines. But those shiny objects are only a byproduct of a bigger trend. 

Companies struggle to keep up with the pace of change. And in a fear of falling behind, executives continue to reach out for the next big thing in hopes that it will move them ahead. Yes, there are logistical operations that must transform in order to continue on the path of transformation. And that’s a challenge. But more so, there is a cultural change necessary that many organizations don’t have and is severely hindering their ability to grow and adapt. 

A lot of it can be circled back to the idea, and misconceptions, of failure. 

Pivots are not Failures

A consistent theme with the companies that I have worked with is a struggle to step back and look at their business and operations from a customer perspective. They have a hard time asking What do our customers need today? And the difficult truth is that the answer is probably different from the last time they asked – if they ever asked at all. 

The reason why that truth can be difficult is that organizations’ current systems and processes may not fit what customers expect and need now. Pivots are necessary. Though some executives view the need to pivot as a failure by the company. In reality, the reasons why the company configured those systems or set up those processes previously may have been correct at the time, but now they’re no longer relevant. 

This is not failure. The companies who are able to embrace change and understand that adapting is necessary will be far better off than their counterparts. An approach can be both right at the time and no longer right today. They are not mutually exclusive. 

How are some companies able to understand this better than others? It comes down to culture. 

Embrace Failing Fast

Whether it’s pressure from an economic standpoint or competition standpoint, there is a growing trend of companies not wanting to put effort toward any strategy that isn’t guaranteed to drive ROI. Every move has to be successful from the onset. And this is bringing about adverse challenges. 

Teams need to be given space to fail. Experimentation and iteration are critical to innovation. But this need to bat 1.000 is causing innovation to suffer. Not only do organizations need to provide a safe space for its employees to say, I think I have something that could work, but it also needs an overall culture where pivots and iteration are a part of every process. 

By limiting risk, companies are also limiting the potential for rewards. Don’t miss out on possible business-altering opportunities because you’re not willing to risk it. And if the strategy doesn’t work right away, that doesn’t mean it won’t lead to the right answer moving forward. 

They say standing still is falling behind, and that is absolutely true in business. Continuous evolution – and both the successes and failures that come with it – must be part of your company’s DNA and culture if you want to succeed moving forward. 

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