When we think of the strengths of lawyers it’s generally: achiever, perfectionist, communicator, competitive, strategist and the list goes on. What these strengths have in common is… failure is not an option! But, how do you define failure? In the article in Harvard Business Review By Peter Simms… The No.1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure, Simms sheds some light on the question and notes that fear of failure can often stifle adaptation and growth…
If your internalized view of failure is anything that is not perfect, then you are disempowering yourself from exercising your inherent creativity.
You’re certainly not the only one shackled by these norms, and I don’t blame you with the way our educational system is focused so rigidly on ‘correct answers”‘and standardized testing. This must change. And modern management systems must become far more adaptive.
For instance, at GE, led by Jeff Immelt and Beth Comstock, we are learning in real time with GE’s Innovation Accelerator how an organization long focused on Six Sigma, the antibody of innovation and entrepreneurial discovery, can help its leaders develop a discovery mindset for those situations where there are many unknowns and uncertainties.
Fortunately, the US Army provides a lot of insight about how a highly bureaucratic, command and control organization (the Army of the Cold War) can become more adaptive and creative (which it must when facing rapidly adaptive enemies, and when soldiers and officers can rarely predict what problems they will encounter). It starts with every individual, and unlearning many old bad habits. As Col. Casey Haskins, who heads up military instruction for West Point, has said, ‘You have to make it cool to fail.’ Slow as culture change may come to a behemoth like GE or the military, Comstock, Immelt, and Haskins understand the same insight.
At GE, instead of focusing on completing solutions, Comstock focuses on providing tools and resources to drive a discovery mindset, to identify problems first before jumping in with solutions. And, to do so, they’ve got to change a bunch of internal review approaches so that it becomes cool to be imperfect and half-baked at the early stages of new projects — so long as you’re learning quickly.
Certainly in the legal profession change is happening. Sometimes it happens naturally and other times it is forced. For change to take place creativity must be present… and finding a new way to think about business development without fear of failure is key. Remove the shackles and see what kind of future you can invent!