“As Long As My Failing Project Continues, I’m Not A Failure”

Is it higher to have grit or know when to cease?

A couple of weeks in the past I listened to a superb episode of the Innovation Show podcastwith visitor Anne Duke.

It was about her new e book “Stop: The power to know when to walk awayand there was one topic they talked about that really stuck with me when thinking about innovation projects.

She explained why people often find it so difficult to walk away from projects that clearly fail or to abandon them.

This happens a lot in the world of innovation projects, where insights show that the initial idea for a project just doesn’t work and the project needs to be killed. However, the project team, and especially the project owner (often the one who originally had the idea), cannot stop the project.

The reason is that as long as the project is still running, it has not officially failed yet.

And so as long as the failing project continues, the person leading it will not be a failure.

Think of it as the famous gambling problem called “chasing losswhere a gambler starts losing money and thinks the only way to get it back is to continue gambling larger amounts, hoping that each win can bring back what they have previously invested. Essentially, even if they “failed” by losing a lot of money in one night, they would not be considered a “failure” until they stop gambling and left the slot machine/roulette table/poker game, since then their ability to recoup their investment has really stopped.

This can be especially problematic, because the longer an innovation project lasts, the more painful it can be to be forced to stop. As time passes and project costs pile up, management may see those previous sunk costs and fear losing what they previously invested if the project shuts down. Counterintuitively, previous investment is already gone, and spending extra money on a bad project often just ends up wasting extra money, time and energy, when it would have been much more effective to recognize that it was time to stop earlier.

People feel a huge failure because it puts them at risk of being embarrassed and rejected by their group.

In a work situation, failure is often especially feared because it is noticed in performance appraisals and has an implication for how competent a person is to do their job.

So often the most comfortable thing an innovation team does during a failing project, even when they know it’s best to quit, is tell them to keep going, and in the end, all the extra effort can fix everything.

This almost never happens and is almost always a bad idea.

So what can we do to reduce the risk of this happening?

  1. Reduce the fear of being branded a “Failure”: Many people fear failure in a business context, thinking that any plan that doesn’t work means they did a bad job and will be punished. Instead, we should learn to treat failure like a scientist. Scientists try experiments, and if those experiments fail, it’s actually very valuable and positive data about what it did not work so they can try something different next time. So instead of planning a project to succeed or fail at launch, turn it into a series of many smaller experiments that can tell if you and the project team are moving in the right direction.
  2. Often validate whether a project is on track or “failed”: From a mission administration perspective, we will additionally use administration strategies such because the LIVE innovation system to validate whether or not a mission is progressing or not, and whether or not it is smart to proceed the mission or reinvest the assets with the next probability of success. By eradicating the stigma of killing tasks, progress opinions could be made loads much less private and folks will likely be much less intimidated once they share information {that a} mission is off monitor

In conclusion, failure in itself will not be a foul factor if it occurs in small, low-cost steps and groups get the place they should go sooner.

Even if that vacation spot is the mission that’s being stopped.

Quitting is commonly a wise selection.

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Creativity and innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capacity so you can develop the next breakthrough idea that customers love. Editor-in-chief of Ideatovalue.com and Founder/CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted one of the most influential innovation bloggers.

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