Let Your Warts Show

It might sound like an oxymoron, but failure and imperfection can actually be a source of competitive advantage for your company. Of course, the secret is learning how to channel all that failure and imperfection in a way that moves your business forward and creates a thriving company culture.

Use failure to create trust

The reality is that every business faces failure from time to time. Whether in simple communication issues, or in failed business strategy. Maybe the brand new splashy marketing campaign that you just launched turned out to be a total dud. Or maybe the new product that you spent years creating in your R&D lab turned out to be outdated by the time it actually hit the marketplace.

When this failure happens, it’s easy to point the finger at someone else and assign blame. But think about it: What does that do to your workplace culture if failure becomes a mark of shame? The answer is easy – people become afraid to make mistakes. They opt for the choice that’s least risky. And they always side with the “conventional wisdom.” If they’re going to make a mistake, they’re going to go down with everyone else, not by themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider the workplace culture of Silicon Valley, where failure is not a mark of shame, it’s a badge of honor. Failing means that you are a visionary, someone who is ahead of their time. Failing means that you are bold and risk-loving (not risk-averse). The entire workplace culture of Silicon Valley embraces failure. And there’s even a nifty management mantra for that: Fail Fast.

There’s a lot to unpack in those two tiny words “Fail Fast.” But here’s the general idea: as long as you are learning from your mistakes and relentlessly using them to fine-tune your business model, then it’s OK to fail… and fail FAST. That’s why tech companies typically release their products in “beta” before they are fully finished and refined. They are counting on their users to find the mistakes, the flaws, and the oversights – and they will use all that information to create a truly spectacular product the next time. Finding ways to utilize and learn from failure is something that can actually make you more competitive as a company.

Be open about your imperfections & customers will love you

We’re all fallible. We all make mistakes. But guess what? As long as you admit those mistakes up front, the stakeholders in your business – your partners, your employees, your customers, and your shareholders – will love you. Of course, it takes a lot of bravery to do this. You have to embrace your vulnerability. But the payoff is enormous.

It’s easy to make excuses when things don’t go right. New product didn’t meet expectations? It’s easy to blame external factors for that. Maybe the broader economy isn’t doing so great and consumers are being more cautious in their spending. Or, guess what? Maybe you just plain missed the mark. Maybe you optimized the product for variables X and Y but forgot about poor Z. So instead of trying to deflect blame (or, even worse, trying to pretend that the failure never happened), be the one to initiate a broader discussion of Z within your company. Be the management hero who is willing to have a discussion about that missing Z factor in your company.

In short, let your warts show. Be open and transparent, and you’ll be surprised at what happens. You’ll have a thriving workplace culture and passionate stakeholders in your company who respect and admire you. So be vulnerable, and be willing to communicate that vulnerability to others.

Don’t know where to start? We can help. Talk to an improvement expert who can help you revamp your strategy and reach your goals. Click here to get started.

Quote of the Day:

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” 
 Stephen Hawking

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