By What Metric is “Failure” Good?

Rita King and Marc Andreessen have got it right about “Failure” –

“Failures that result from a thoughtful process of risk assessment and a bold attempt to try something new without jeopardizing an organization’s ability to function shouldn’t be penalized. But they shouldn’t be celebrated, either.”Rita King, EVP for Business Development at Science House

“There’s this trend in Silicon Valley that failure is good. I’ve always thought failure sucks.”  — MA, via The Atlantic @pmarca#AtlX – Marc Andreessen, Mozilla Co-Founder and Venture Capitalist

There’s been some great discussion around the topic of whether failure should be celebrated, or not, but let’s not confuse whether we’re discussing this for the individual or for the commercial/not-for-profit entity when we consider the trade-offs.

Perhaps it comes down to this: Whose money or livelihood is at risk? If it is an individual taking their own risks, then no worries. Try. Fail. Pick yourself up. Grow. Succeed. What a great reason to celebrate!

However, if you are a decision maker in a corporation and you are putting millions of shareholder’s dollars at risk, then failure is nothing to celebrate. From our research, #ACT4Value has found that nearly 1/3 of strategic initiatives (principally involving new information technologies) “fail to complete.” Another 1/6 overall “complete, but fail to deliver the expected value proposition.” This is hardly cause for celebration.

For the CFO/CEO investing the millions and getting a 50% or worse “success rate” on semi-routine information technology enhancements, then I’d agree with Marc Andreessen’s view, “Failure Sucks!”

The good news is that much of this innovation failure can be averted, when a balanced “solution performance management” approach is used in lieu of inattentiveness to detail, misaligned strategic intent, organizational unpreparedness or misfit solutions.

That’s the view of ACT4Value’s industry practitioners and thought-leaders, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Morale: When investing, be willing to fail, but be diligent enough to keep it from happening; then celebrate your hard-won success!

Thomas Dewey – ACT President and Founder, is a CPG/Retail Innovation Practitioner and has invested 30 years applying analytic technologies in the CPG/Retail Industry.   Having earned his BS (Operations Research & Industrial Engineering) and MBA, both from Cornell University, in 2003 he founded Applied Commerce Technology (ACT) as a professional services and solutions company specializing in identifying, designing and enabling high-value innovative technologies, processes and information to enhance profitable growth of the Retail and CPG sector.  Follow @ACT4Value on Twitter.

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