Here’s a pub quiz question for you. How quickly can you rattle off the names of five Fortune 500 companies who are proud of their willingness to fail? Your instinctive response: probably, none.
But think about that again. A willingness to fail is a whole lot different to failure. It’s about culture, not outcome; optimism, not pessimism; confidence, not doubt.
A willingness to fail has sat at the heart of the R&D function forever. But it seems counter-intuitive to other disciplines within an organisation. Consider that the conditioning of market expectation.
But business success – particularly business success in the midst of faltering markets – demands a changed mindset. A mindset that accepts the rather dry and chalky taste of business reality.
At the heart of that reality is what we now call an engagement economy. A place where the authenticity of purpose, resilience of thinking and originality of ideas is a prerequisite to business and communication success. A place where consumers tire easily and loyalty wains with equal pace.
At Weber Shandwick we have embraced the engagement economy. It has shifted our outlook to the way we build advocacy for our clients. And it has re-calibrated our own environment, building a culture where our people’s imagination can flourish without being unnerved by the prospect of a failed idea.
Cultivating the collective imagination may sound like a noble purpose, peppered by slick ambiguity. But is far from both.
The best place for any organisation to start such a cultural (and probably philosophical) journey, is to accept the possibility of a failed idea. Because a business that is not prepared to be wrong, must also be prepared to accept the permanent illusiveness of original thought.