Most Significant Failure/”Low”:


077 – Season 4 Wrap Up: What Is Your Most Significant Failure/”Low”, What Have You Learned From It and How Have You Applied That Learning?

Most Significant Failure/”Low”:


077 – Season 4 Wrap Up: What Is Your Most Significant Failure/”Low”, What Have You Learned From It and How Have You Applied That Learning?

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“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. So said Winston Churchill, a man who had his fair share of professional disasters to accompany his well known successes.

A less painful and more practical strategy for many of us might be to learn from other people’s mistakes. There can be no doubt that you will encounter unexpected and unwanted outcomes as a result of looking at the world through multiple perspectives, or as a result of changing or adapting your work habits in order to remain fresh and creative. So we all need to be prepared for the inevitable lows and I believe that the key is to quickly identify your mistake and take action.

It is for this reason we ask every guest about their most significant lows, and what they have learned from them.

Given their diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, here are some examples from the trenches about how a few of our highly accomplished guests from Season 4 from the worlds of business, academia, sports, science, and the arts have emerged from there lows and how they take that learning forward to create success.

Summary

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. So said Winston Churchill, a man who had his fair share of professional disasters to accompany his well known successes.

A less painful and more practical strategy for many of us might be to learn from other people’s mistakes. There can be no doubt that you will encounter unexpected and unwanted outcomes as a result of looking at the world through multiple perspectives, or as a result of changing or adapting your work habits in order to remain fresh and creative. So we all need to be prepared for the inevitable lows and I believe that the key is to quickly identify your mistake and take action.

It is for this reason we ask every guest about their most significant lows, and what they have learned from them.

Given their diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, here are some examples from the trenches about how a few of our highly accomplished guests from Season 4 from the worlds of business, academia, sports, science, and the arts have emerged from there lows and how they take that learning forward to create success.

Most Significant Failure/”Low”

What Was Covered

Previous Wrap Up Episodes:

We founded innovation ecosystems in order to help individuals and companies become more open to multiple perspectives and to deliver these multiple perspectives in a range of formats. As a listener to this podcast, you will know that we discuss the topics of innovation and change and leadership with world-class performers from the worlds of business academia, sports, science, and the arts. Over the course of the last 2 ½ years we have been fortunate enough to attract a wide variety of guests onto the show all of whom have given us the benefits of the unique perspectives they bring to the world.

This is the third wrap up episode of season four. The first episode was a compilation of previous guests answering the question what have you changed your mind about recently. As I explained in the episode,  this question gets to the heart of the unconscious biases that we as individuals all suffer from. Many of us go through life seeking confirmatory evidence to reinforce our decisions. Sometimes however we are able to overcome this confirmation bias and to change our minds on something big. From a business point of view it is key that you are able to overcome the organizational biases like not invented here syndrome, groupthink, the halo effect, stereotyping: this is how you can start to look at the market differently,  to build your innovation muscles, to innovate around multiple value drivers, to change your perspective and the perspectives of those around you.

The second question  that I ask guests relates to the personal work habits and routines that they use in order to remain fresh, creative, and consistently to perform at a high-level. We are after all creatures of habit and unless we proactively seek out fresh perspectives, we run the risk of remaining in our own personal bubbles surrounded by those who think the same way that we do.

The third question I asked guests is what is your most significant failure or low point, what have you learned from it and how have you applied that learning. Wherever possible I try to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than going through the pain associated with learning on my own. There can be no doubt that you will encounter unexpected and unwanted outcomes as a result of looking at the world through multiple perspectives, or as a result of changing or adapting your work habits in order to remain fresh and creative. So we all need to be prepared for the inevitable lows and I believe that the key is to quickly identify your mistake and take action.

So here are some examples from the trenches about how a few of our highly accomplished guests from season four from the worlds of business, academia, sports, science, and the arts have emerged from there lows and how they take that learning forward to create success.

 

MARK: “Let’s start with my guest of episode 49; board Member and advisor to Global 500 companies: Annalisa Gigante:

ANNALISA: “ I am from the courageous school. I believe that if you want to change the world you have to take that into consideration, and again my learning there is what do you do next? Don’t give up. Understand why you’re trying to do something and try and make that happen and make that coalition happen so that you can reach those goals. It’s not easy and I think one of my biggest learnings recently was resilience; that it’s damn well worth having.”

MARK: “As you might expect, resilience is a common theme across this podcast, because many of us are trying to do things in our companies that haven’t been done before and are by definition really hard. And we know from the natural world that resilient ecosystems are more robust and better able to withstand external shocks to the system. The same is true for the individual. Making your ecosystem more diverse by exposing yourself to fresh perspectives Will build your personal resilience.

Here is the experience from my guest of episode 50, a man who pretty much lost everything and somehow turned it all in to a positive…”

STEVEN: “I lost the girl I thought I was going to marry, my house, went bankrupt, my dream job, got fired from a job I spent a decade trying to get. All of it went away.”

MARK: “Author and award-winning journalist, and the Cofounder and Director of Research at The Flow Genome Project: Steven Kotler”

STEVEN: “I spent three years in bed with Lyme disease and I was really, really sick and everything I’ve ever wanted in my life happened because of that. So I don’t even – all of the lows have produced the best highs. I love a good long low sometimes. Get your ass kicked for a couple of years and then you get out and you get to slay the dragon again, that rebirth is kind of invigorating, and if you do it enough times, you start to trust it, you no longer doubt that you can make it back. You’re just like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I’m going to do now.

As I listen to that segment from Steven Kotler knowing that he is talking not only from his own personal experience but that this is a common theme in the lives of the remarkable people he has written about in his books like the rise of Superman stealing fire and bold, it’s pretty compelling.

MARK: “As Annalisa mentioned earlier ‘if you want to change the world you have to take failure and low points into consideration’. So if failures and low points is something you’ve experienced or are experiencing then you’re in good company:”

DAVID: “All the best people, if I can use that word, have had ups and downs, the darkness, light, and shade, and I think that has actually been a wellspring, it looked like disaster but now looking back, it’s probably the reason we’re having this conversation because ever since all of my work has somehow been informed by that, when the very thing you’re most fearing happens, something amazing comes through, so I think that for me was a real turning point.”

MARK “Award winning author, founder of Street wisdom and advisor to captains of industry,  David Pearl”

DAVID: “I don’t want to be too coy about it but it was a breakthrough, I was lucky enough to come apart a bit early on in my career because I was succeeding to the point, I think, to the Wayne Dyer point, I was succeeding but feeling very, very unhappy inside so I think that was the first time that the wheels came off. I appeared to fail but the turning point there was really actually reconnecting with my own ‘why’, understanding that darkness is part of wholeness.”

 

When David and I met we discussed this incident that he refers to in some detail. What he initially saw as a breakdown he subsequently named a breakthrough. This is a powerful reminder to me of the importance of the language that we use how we label something has a strong bearing on the meaning that we subsequently attach to it.

MARK: “To be able to turn things around like the three guests we’ve heard from takes resilience, but it also takes enormous amounts of bravery to repeatedly put ones head above the parapet. And bravery was something that my guest and I discussed in episode 66. David Marquet was the Captain of the USS Santa Fe from 1999 to 2001 and now works as a leadership expert and is the author of the book, Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking Rules. Following an experience in his Naval career, David confided that he wished he’d been ‘a little braver’ over the situation and how the experience had a huge impact on his mind-set.”

DAVID: “What happened to me was later in the Navy and at the Pentagon, I was sort of thrust back into a very traditional environment where the people around me were adhering to that leadership definition that you read.  They were directing the thoughts, plans, and actions of others. So, I was thrown into a place where my boss thought it was his job to direct my thoughts and it felt crappy and especially since I’d seen this window into another world, and I reacted poorly to it. On the one hand, I don’t think I set boundaries well. I didn’t protect myself from what I thought was being treated badly and I feel regretful about that, and the other thing is I kind of flip-flop between being a ‘yes man’ and just sort of being passive-aggressive obstinate. Anyway, neither of those were very mature responses. So, I think now that I think about my kids and I think about what I went through, the one thing I regret is any time you let yourself be treated badly that we always have an excuse for it, ‘Well, I want to be a team player’, ‘Well, I want the next promotion’, ‘Well, I’m making so much money here,’ ‘Well, I can’t afford to lose my job’, and I really think those things take a toll on you more than you might expect and I would encourage people if you feel like you’re in an environment – I mean, it’s one of the worst things we can do, is have a work that we don’t feel valued because we take those toxins home and we create a bad environment for everybody around us and think hard about that. Do you really need that?”

MARK: A very honest answer to the question made all the more poignant since it came after Davids successful stint as captain of the submarine.  

In episode 61, Tyler Gage who’s the co-founder of the organic tea company Runa joined me to discuss his book  Fully Alive.  During the interview, Tyler talked about how his low point had a transformative effect on his mindset and approach to business, thanks to an alternative perspective to leadership offered by a CEO friend of his”

TYLER: I was at the one-inch line of getting kicked out of my company a few years ago, and that was an extremely grueling time in my life, but it allowed me to grow in more ways than I ever could have if we hadn’t reached that degree of breaking point. I tell this story pretty vividly and thoroughly in the book, but it was the inflexion point for me of acting like a scrappy startup entrepreneur to learning as best I could what it meant to be a true leader and a true CEO. The best piece of advice I got from a friend of mine in the industry who is the CEO of Traditional Medicinals tea company, a fellow tea industry leader, when I asked him, ‘In your view, Blair, what does it mean to be a CEO?’ and he said that as a CEO you have to do two things; you have to clear roadblocks and lay down track, that’s it. And this idea that as a true leader your job is to set the course for your team and then remove blocks for them to do their job as best they possibly can, and that is seemingly really simple but his powerful focused way to think about what leadership was as opposed to what I was previously doing which was working twenty hours a day and thinking that I needed to do everything myself, was a really powerful lens to look through and just helped me put the pieces in place in ways that didn’t really compute to me in my startup mindset.

MARK: At the innovation ecosystem, we believe that leadership is made up of three elements. First, you need to see things as they really are, and not worse than they are.  This requires you to be able to separate what do you observe in the situation from the judgement that you make about the situation. Separating observation from judgement isn’t easy and this skill needs to be learned.

Second you need to be able to see things better than they are, to create a compelling vision for you and your team that helps you through the short-term challenges. This requires you ask fresh questions, to reframe the situation or Challenge in different terms.

And third you need to be able to take action, to move yourself towards your vision. Learning from other people’s perspectives, leveraging the cognitive diversity within your ecosystem, taking full advantage of all the resources at your disposal and where necessary getting really resourceful, this is what is required.

A good example of this in action comes from Warren Berger, self-proclaimed questionologist and author of the book “A more beautiful question”.

WARREN: Well, I had a failure with a previous book that didn’t do as well as I had hoped, and the publisher had hoped, and we had high hopes for it. It was a book about design thinking and it did OK and the people who read it liked it, but they had thought it was going to do very well and it just kind of went out there into the world and just kind of quietly went away and so, initially I was very upset about that and I think what I initially wanted to do was run away from that situation and just act like the book had never happened and just move on and not think about it again and then, I realized that there was an element of the book, there was an aspect of the book that people were very interested in, and that I might be able to do something with, and that was actually a chapter within the book that had to do with questioning so, I extracted that chapter and I decided to think about could I do my next book based on some of the stuff that was in that chapter, just kind of blow that out into it into a full book, and it ended up being A More Beautiful Question, and it’s done quite well so, I think the lesson, for me, that’s in there is, don’t be too quick to run away from failure and to put it away somewhere where it can never be seen again because there may be things within that, there may be seeds of a future success within that failure. There may be things you can learn from that failure or that you can extract from it that are actually quite valuable, and so, I think that, for me, that was a big lesson.

MARK: “Because Warren looked closely at the details, re-framed the situation and spotted a new opportunity, he was able to turn his failing in to a positive. And looking closely and spotting the details is something my next guest unfortunately knows all about…”

JOHN: “So, my significant low was that in my last startup which was sold in August of last year, I didn’t pay enough attention to negotiating the terms and conditions of the VC putting money into it and it caught me out, it caught the shareholders out when we came to the point of the exit.”

MARK: “digital and marketing entrepreneur, John Straw”:

JOHN: “The lesson is actually to pay a lot more attention to the detail than you think. The difficulty is that when you’re a startup guy you’re in such a rush to actually build product that I think a lot of them count on the fact that you’re not going to pay attention to detail so, that was the first thing, and then the second part of that was actually what I saw in the term sheet ended up being very different in terms of the actual outcome in terms of contract. I am not a great fan of VC’s under these circumstances. There are a couple out there which are really great, that are really helpful and really add value but I’m of the view that a lot of private investors offer significantly more value through their networks and through their knowledge than many VC’s do, but my advice to entrepreneurs is to check the contract terms because there is some really nasty stuff like preference shares that can really hurt original investors on exit.”

MARK: “So, as we approach the end of this wrap-up episode, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what failure is and what it means. For that, I’ll hand over to author, speaker, and entrepreneur Frans Johansson for his take on this…”

FRANS: “For somebody that views every failure as learning, views every failure as success, as long as you’re still in the game to keep trying another time, it’s a question that I struggle with simply because of the perspective shift. I don’t think that most failures should really be viewed as failures.”

MARK: “Frans Johansson there, putting things in perspective for us.”

Irrespective of what language we use whether we call it a failure or a learning opportunity we all face challenges and it’s how we deal with them that matters. I am frequently confronted by outcomes is that I didn’t plan for and I have a couple of questions that I ask myself to help me find the way forward.

What’s good about the situation?

What am I going to focus on?

What next?

MARK: “The final clip I’ve got for you is an example of how these questions unveil the more personal side to the interviewee. We’re going to hear now from David Novak; the former CEO and Founder of Yum! Brands and more recently the co-founded of oGoLead, with a lesson for life not just for business…”

DAVID: “I think my biggest low probably happened a couple years ago. Unfortunately, I came down with cancer. I had to go through chemo and radiation and all that and, look, I’ve always been a grateful person, but I think when you get cancer and you have your mortality staring you more directly in the face, I think it’s made me feel extremely blessed for the life that I’ve lived. I never once worried about dying because I think I’m living in heaven on earth but I think what it did do is it, it did say ‘Hey, from every day forward I want to try to make the most out of every day’ and so one of the things I do every day is, literally, Mark, I get up every day, I start out and say ‘OK, what are three things that I’m grateful for?’ (Can count as a practice) and I write them down and I start getting my mindset into a positive framework, and so that was a very key point where I think I was able to take a lot of what I have and put it into even a fresher, more valuable perspective for the long term.”

Gratitude is a very powerful emotion: it is almost impossible to feel anger regret extreme sadness and at the same time to feel grateful. And in the world of business it is a very powerful question to ask yourself what you are grateful for, what resources do you have access to, what do clients like about your product, what near death experiences have you been through and come out the other side? Instead of complaining about lack of resources, how can you become more resourceful and take advantage of what do you have in front of you?

In David’s extraordinary career as founder and CEO of Yum brands, he was able to Marshall tremendous resources as he build out the business into the powerhouse it is today, and as he described just now he recently learned to tap into a different type of resource.

So a wide range of answers to an important question, one which I encourage you all  to create some space around and time to reflect on. I would love to hear your answers to that question so feel free to email me at mark at innovation ecosystem. Let me end by a quote from Winston Churchill who said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm”.

This is the last of the three wrap up episodes of season four: we will be taking a break over the summer and will be busy lining up some more outstanding guests from the worlds of business academia sports the arts and science, to ensure that we continue to give you access to fresh perspectives to help you address your business challenges.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. This is Mark Bidwell changing perspectives one podcast at a time.

 

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