Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Innovation, failure and the economy

The title of this post is derived from 3 themes I keep bumping into. I'm wondering if it's the same for you, too. I know it is with respect to 'the economy.' That's like whack-a-mole. But what about the other two? I've been thinking and talking about the importance of failure for organizations and collaborations in a few different contexts recently. A blog post at ARCLog today challenges librarians to recognize the opportunities for innovation or risk irrelevance. Also today, failure was the topic of a weekly twitter chat I follow (#assnchat). It had come up in a previous assnchat when we were discussing risk-taking. In a culture where failure is not an option, there isn't likely to be much risk-taking. Organizations have to come to terms with failure in order for innovation to have a chance. In today's chat the bold idea of a failure budget or a failure fund came up. What a great way to embrace failure and embolden your Board, staff and members to lead innovation!

In a down economy we may need to be even more innovative to accomplish our missions. And yet, if leaders don't feel supported enough to be risk-takers during flush times, fear of failure is likely to be even more inertia inducing in lean times. So create a culture that acknowledges and accepts the risk of failure, learns from failure, and maybe even plans for failure. Does this sound like your library?  How do you manage failure?

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