Formerly Head of Innovation and CIO of Investment at Lloyds Banking Group in London, James Gardner is now Chief Technology Officer at the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK Government.
James has also written “Innovation and the Future Proof Bank”, a book that is on top of the pile of to-read books next to my “broken-foot-sofa”.
Anyway, the title of his last post was “When failure is not an option” (FNAO), a theme that i addressed many times before on this blog before:
- Failure is not an option (you don’t know until you try)
- The Future by Chris Anderson
- Google’s 90 Days Planning
The blog entry is triggered by the following question:
What are your thoughts on organizations were failure maybe is not an option. For example nuclear physics, NASA or a government organization that pays benefits. In these situations failure could be disastrous. What strategy would you recommend in these types of organizations?
James adds an interesting perspective: failure early in your project is better then close to delivery.
…the further you get into delivery, the more money you’ve spent. If you have to stop then, its very bad indeed. As innovators, you don’t want that situation occurring if you can help it. It leads to what academics call “innovation trauma” – the scenario where everyone is so burned by a failed innovation that no-one will ever sign up for anything new again.
And – what is scary if you are in your early days of an innovation program in an organization that has FNAO as one of its core assets:
Even one bad failure, though, can close down an innovation program. And clearly, in the cases that Malcolm mentions, that kind of failure has very dire consequences indeed.
One last point on this: “failure is not an option” is a mentality that leads to – you guessed it – failure. Trying new things is a process that requires lots of stops and starts. There will, inevitably, be more stops than starts, actually. In an organization that doesn’t celebrate good failure, what you get is a scenario where nothing new starts at all.
That, clearly, is a very bad situation to be in, and is one of the main reasons people complain they “don’t have enough innovation”
It’s also via this post i discovered James Gardner’s “The Little Innovation Book”.
This little on-line experiment has absolutely great content for innovators. Every page adds a perspective to innovation that i was not familiar with. A recommendation. You can also comment on-line as James is writing this on-line innovation book.
Would you be interested to have James Gardner at Innotribe @ Sibos 2010 in Amsterdam (25-29 October 2010) ?
Let me know. We can invite him 😉 But would he accept ?