Before automobile mogul Henry Ford struck gold in the auto industry, he failed twice in previous ventures.
The late chief executive officer of Coca Cola, Roberto Goizueta, presided over one of the greatest blunders in business history when he replaced traditional Coca Cola with a sweeter version, new Coca Cola, an saw his decision summarily rejected by consumers. But learning from his mistakes, Goizueta went on to build a more prosperous company centered around Coca Cola as a brand, not as a product that sold on the basis of taste.
Those are just two just examples of tremendously successful businessmen who fell flat on their faces. So were they failures and then successes Or were their successes a direct outgrowth of their failures? And what, really, is failure, a shameful episode that marks one as a loser forever or as a risk-taker willing to tolerate setbacks as the cost of great achievement?
“The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate,” said former IBM Chairman Thomas Watson Sr., who used that formula to build a hugely successful company.
A success himself, Champaign [Illinois] native and author Ralph Keyes has been thinking a lot about failure and its virtues. Now he and co-author Richard Farson have published a book on the subject, Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins: The Paradox of Innovation, that examines the ups and downs of achievers, the danger of early success, complacency in the face of continued success and the advantages of risking failure.
“It’s really an inquiry. What does success mean? What does failure mean? We write about many instances in which early failure led to later success,” he said … Keyes is hoping that his latest work, his 11th book, will prove to be popular with more than just the “managers and leaders of all types” who have a specific interest in subjects like this.
“Obviously, the primary market is market managers,” Keyes said. “But we tried to address broader issues.”