Those who want to have a better understanding of what motivates bosses, employees and peers should read Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins, a new book by Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes. This small gem, published by Simon & Schuster’s Free Press division, is packed with easily understood, interesting and useful philosophy.
This is one of the most thought-provoking management books to come out in recent years. As its subtitle, “The Paradox of Innovation,” suggests, much of the volume is devoted to innovation successes and failures, but its management suggestions go far beyond that.
“In personal and professional lives alike, neither success nor failure is what it seems to be,” the authors point out. “That is the book’s basic message. Success and failure can be hard to tell apart; one leads to the other and both have value. That conclusion has led to its most counter-intuitive suggestion for leaders: Treat success and failure similarly, not with rewards or sanction, but personal engagement. We have tried to show how many more management approaches become possible once conventional notions of success and failure are discarded.
“A both/and rather than either/or approach makes it easier to encourage inventiveness, support mavericks, do simultaneous planning, and destroy apparently successful businesses to make way for new ones that might fail – or win big. At the heart of this posture is greater acceptance of failure as a necessary part of innovation. This acceptance produces work environments that are genuinely risk-friendly, which is to say, failure-tolerant. Even though fear of failure cannot be eradicated from such environments, it can be managed, even put to work as a source of energy and focus. Those who are passionately engaged in a task they care about are the ones most likely to achieve success – paradoxically by minimizing thoughts of succeeding, or failing.”
There are so many other good ideas in this book that it is hard to summarize them, but here are a few:
· In the midst of adversity, we are stronger than we think. Human beings grow most from situations they try hardest to avoid.
· Mistakes come from doing, but so does success. We’re playing it too safe if we don’t fail occasionally. Effective achievers focus on the task at hand and don’t let the possibility of failure break their concentration.
· A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails. Generally accepted wisdom is what usually gets us in the most trouble.
· Progress can be made only when failure is risked. Failure and setbacks are often learning experiences, a step on the road to success. Failure is not a disgrace; we should ask ourselves what we learned and them, “Where do we go from here?”
· Success, which often results in the loss of focus and daring, is at least as hazardous as failure. Complacency actually costs more than “costly failures.”
· A company’s inability to move beyond its current success is more often due to lack of vision than lack of opportunity. Preparing for the future sometimes requires a company to renounce its past. Success is a moving target; what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow.
· Employees can’t be told to be innovative; corporate culture must be changed to encourage it. Intolerance of errors is the Achilles’ heel of overly mature organizations.
I recommend this book.