If something was repeated in the speeches of the Nordic Business Forum 2019, it was undoubtedly a failure. Daring to fail as a leader, new innovations are only born out of trial and error, and the organizational culture must be built on allowing failure, were the key messages in numerous speeches. So, there is no doubt about what is the new business ism: failures.
The subject was sinking into NBF audience like melting butter, because tolerating failures or even celebrating them is not traditionally part of Nordic corporate culture. But times are changing, so loosening your hat is definitely needed from the perspective of an individual leader, as well as from sustainable and innovation-sensitive organization. Here are some snippets of NBF speeches in Helsinki:
“We see that growth companies are great at experimenting since it is built in their organisation culture. You have to remember that technology allows us to experiment a lot quicker and easier nowadays but still most of us continue working in the traditional way. Google did a research on what makes innovative teams successful and according to the study, the best predictor is psychological safety. That means the teams have the ability to take risks and experiment safely, as a team member you feel you have the ability to be your true self and you are appreciated by being so. I strongly feel that future of growth is not possible without psychological safety, but how do you create it? 1. Don´t underscore the importance of contribution as people don´t usually speak up when they have something to say. 2. Ask for honest feedback 3. Be honest about having failed yourself”
Anssi Rantanen, Finland CEO at the Growth Tribe Academy
“Companies are not concerned enough about improving the company business model although the fact is that if you want to stay ahead you have to constantly reinvent yourself. It´s all about the willpower to transform. When life looks too good you stop innovating. What should be done to change that and what are the characteristics of an invincible company? 1. Create a culture that allows failing, which means learning from failures and experiments. Remember that in order to invent you have to experiment. Most large companies embrace the idea of invention but are not willing to suffer the string of failures necessary on the way. You don´t get fired by failing. 2. Manage an innovation portfolio. In any established company you have to understand you need to invest in many projects to get the home run and you cannot pick the winner without investing in the losers. 3. You need to create an organisation which take exploration seriously and who concentrate on innovation. You have to give innovation the power it needs in order to flourish”.
Alexander Osterwalder, Co-Founder of Strategyzer
”Some of the best products are created when you want something for yourself. When designing computers after another, I was engineering for engineers. Showing off that I had the skills. That is why Apple II was so advanced at the time and lasted so long. It was in fact our company’s source of money for the first ten years, as Steve Jobs‘s computer projects Apple III, Lisa and Macintosh were all flops. They all failed because Steve couldn’t make computers. For example, he did not realize that the computer must have an operating system. The Macintosh didn’t have it at all. So Apple later had to buy an operating system – from NeXT, a company founded by Steve. But when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he developed the iMac and then the iPod, which became his Apple II. And then, of course, the iPhone. ”
Steve Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple and Inventor
“There is a hidden blessing in difficult times of your life. I became hungry for studying how to think and started studying it when I was 16. That was fundamental in terms of Spanx future success. I realized that what you don´t know can be your biggest asset since you don´t know the average way of doing things. Overcome the fear of embarrassment and make mistakes without any fear. I try to embarrass myself constantly since I don´t want to live in fear. Fear of failure is a massive road block for entrepreneurs. My dad encouraged me to fail and he redefined failure to me. The only real failure is not trying. That was his lesson to me. We have “oops meetings” at Spanx where I share my failures and people share theirs. Businesses should embrace a culture like that in order to innovate”.
Sara Blakely, Spanx Founder and Chief Executive Officer
“As a leader you must be attentional to your authenticity. It is your distinct competitive advantage. Be uniquely you since most of the people are not confident in their skin. Bring you authentic self to the table. It is the heart of influential strategic leader. How do you do that? Teach your team how to fail in order to build trust among people you work with. Teach your team how to fail in order to innovate in a high level. Celebrate the failures. If people are afraid they won´t try. Fear has no place in your success equitation. Fails gives you the gift of experimenting”.
Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley
Photo: Nordic Business Forum 2019