A while ago a colleague and I worked together on what we both believed was a great opportunity. After a lot of hard work, especially on my colleague's part, the project turned out to be a bust. Failure is never fun. As matter of fact, it stinks. And while I was disappointed with the outcome I'm also glad I had the opportunity to fail.
Does that sound strange? Not if I see that as a result of this project I got to learn from both my colleague and a wonderful woman who works with him. I got the chance to refine some of the experience concepts I've been working with for years, and as a result my work will be better than before. Yes, our project failed but I know that in the long run we'll both benefit. Call it failing forward.
Some failure is actually good because it means you're trying new things. If you never fail it means you're either stuck doing the same old thing, which is never good for business, or your name is Midas.
Failures are only good if you learn from them and adapt your business going forward. Unfortunately, so many people fail backwards. After trying something new and failing they quit trying new things that might improve their business. As a result, they lose ground in their industry and their market.
I've seen retailers institute a new way to engage and sell customers only to fall back on their old ways if the new initiative doesn't create immediate results. Those retailers would be much better off if they gave the new way a fair chance. If it doesn't work, fail forward. Look for how to adjust and improve the approach.
When an event doesn't result in the expected traffic or sales some retailers take that to mean that events don't work for them. Maybe that particular event didn't work but it doesn't mean they should fail backwards and quit doing events altogether. Try failing forward and brainstorm three to five things to do differently next time.
It's absolutely true that my colleague and I believed that our project was worthwhile. It's also absolutely true that I would have appreciated earning what we had hoped on the project, but now I'm looking forward to earning on what I learned by failing forward. And the only way to get an ROI on failing forward is to learn from it and take action.
So let me ask, are you failing forward or backwards? Even worse, are you not failing at all?
Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a proven retail and customer experience firm that works with progressive retailers and other customer-focused companies.