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Why IT innovation follows failure

Sharon Florentine | Jan. 31, 2017
What kind of leaders actively encourages failure? The good ones.

Cultural values

Creating an intentional culture with innovation as its underpinning is key to fostering growth and new ideas, Crater says. Full Circle Insights has five specific values on which the culture is built, all of which tie into innovation, she says.

"Customer success is number 1. Transparency is number 2. This is very important in fostering innovation, because you can't have secrets or be vague or unclear and expect to innovate around that. Growth is third, because you have to grow in order to boost value, which also means innovating. Team first is our fourth; we want to run a company where everyone supports and helps each other, and where we're not competing against one another. That contributes to innovation because we're giving each other feedback to build on new ideas and concepts and create new things. Finally, and I would say this is almost the most important, is downtime -- having a hobby. This is so important to us that if we interview someone and they don't have a hobby, we won't hire them. We believe that you can't invent and be creative and innovate if you're tired, exhausted, overworked and you're burned out. For some people, that's running, or reading, or skydiving or whatever -- just something that's not working all the time," she says.

Building that culture of innovation is hard work, and it requires some vulnerability on the part of leadership to allow for and encourage failure, says Willerer. But being willing to take risks and knowing how to mitigate those is key to fostering innovation. Willerer conducts focus groups, both internally and with customers, to determine what's currently working -- and what's not -- and to anticipate and get ahead of future trends. That allows for a balance between haphazardly throwing new ideas into the mix and sticking with the status quo, since measuring results can soften the negative impacts if an idea isn't a good one. He uses a baseball analogy to explain his philosophy:

Grand slam

"A great baseball hitter is maybe .300. That means .700 - or 70 percent of the time, you're not hitting. You're failing. That's how I look at it; you can actively solicit feedback from customers, and you can actively work within the needs of your organization -- strategy wise, budget wise, innovation wise -- and you can still get it completely wrong. That's the balancing act, because there's a layer of interpretation that has to go over everything. People say they want X, Y, Z, but what they really want is Q, and you have to figure that out. It's sometimes more art than science," WIllerer says.


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