See if you can spot the error in this scenario…


“Call me crazy, but I’m going right.”

While working for a company dependent upon a robust and innovative Research & Development contribution, it was whispered that the “C- level” leader of that particular business unit was intolerant of mistakes.

“Knock knock.”

Who’s there?


Donut who?

“Donut expecta to succeed ifa you afraida of failure.” (Sorry, I have kids, I’m a purveyor of bad jokes.)

So, to recap, you have the leader of a group of highly intelligent and creative people who inadvertently created a culture where “mistake free” work is the goal. Predictably, within five years, the product pipeline had all but dried up. Unable to produce new products, the growth strategy of the company became focused on buying or brokering the products of others. Immensely talented R&D professionals began to jump ship (it’s always the strong swimmers first, remember?), looking for opportunities to fail.

Talented people seeking an opportunity to fail? Yep, that’s not a misprint.

An environment that values innovation must also recognize the value of failure; how many times have your heard a manager encourage his people to fail? I’ve worked for companies that professed an affinity for risk…at least that’s what they say…until someone makes a mistake.

As a leader in your company, your reaction to mistakes will send a strong message to those around you. Blame, finger-pointing, admonishment – these are the tools of soul-crushers. It may sound counter-intuitive, but celebrating those big ideas that failed will only encourage the ideas that succeed.

Now make me proud – get out there and fail.

 John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be chicken.