Last month's newsletter
was about failure and its importance in the creative process. Remember,
fail early, fail often, fail cheap and fail forward.
As I was presenting
this thought to at a recent seminar, I remembered a celebration of failure
that we used when I was at Keebler Cookies and Crackers.
We were an aggressive
group of marketers without a lot of money. As a result, we were always
trying something different, weird, cutting edge or outlandish in developing,
promoting and advertising cookies and crackers. In other words we were
always pushing the envelope in hopes of finding something new and inexpensive
that would work in delivering higher sales.
Some of the ideas
worked and many did not. In order to keep us focused on innovation and
to make it ok to keep trying, we began celebrating our failures. We
presented a traveling statue to the person who messed up the best the
previous week. The statue represented a man bent over at the waist with
his head someplace anatomically impossible to get to (if you catch my
drift). The statue then sat on the "winner's" desk until the next week
when that person got to choose who messed up best during the week and
received the award. We made a big production out of it, with all of
us parading into the winner's office to make the presentation.
The point we made
is that it is ok to fail as long as the error is one of action, not
inaction and that we learned from it.
We now have fruit
of the month club, beer of the month club, panty of the month club.
If you want to encourage creativity in your organization, I insist you
start a "Mistake of the Month Club." Get together with your team on
a monthly basis. List the mistakes you've made on a white board. Vote
for the mistake we learned the most from. Develop a fun reward for it.
Go for it folks.
Mistake of the Month Club can be just what you need to get your team
to take the risks necessary to reach breakthrough ideas.
Announcing the No
Wrong Way Newsletter, Mistake of the Month Club. Email me your business
or personal blunders that turned out to be great learning experiences
and I'll publish them.
As a reward, the
one I judge to be the "Mistake of the Month" will receive a free copy
of my book, IdeaDoc's Rx for Creativity. Additionally, I'll immortalize
you on my web site, which will have a list of Mistake of the Month Club
I just completed
a three-week speaking tour of UK. This is my second time for a three-
week swing through the country that we have so much in common with and
yet are so different.
One point that became
glaringly obvious was the need to tailor your product to the client.
The first trip I was less skilled at making adjustments to my material
and especially my presentation style. This time, I made adjustments
that made all the difference in the world in terms of my effectiveness.
The British (as
well as Scots and Irish) are extremely polite and therefore have great
difficulty openly challenging anything a speaker says.
Last year I was
talking to the audience about celebrating small victories and good works
in order to keep the team inspired and focused on doing great work.
My method of accomplishing this is to pump your fist repeatedly yelling
"Yes" with great enthusiasm. I took the candidates through an exercise
to practice this method. At the break, a woman candidate spoke with
me privately and said if anyone did that "to me, (not for me) I'd slap
him!" I began to see that what works in the US is not necessarily what
works elsewhere and that I'd have to develop some alternative ways to
In a similar vein,
I recommended getting team members profiled or written about in newsletters
or better yet, newspapers. I was informed this would be highly insulting
and absolutely unacceptable because only "ax murders and cereal rapists"
get written about in newspapers.
The point of these
stories isn't to point out my cultural insensitivity (although that
might be a good thing to do). Rather it is to always ask questions in
order to diagnose before making any prescriptions. We all need to consider
where our customers are starting from before we tell them what they
This trip I began
to speak with intensity, but a lower level of enthusiasm than here in
the States. Then as the candidates got used to my speaking style, I
raised the enthusiasm when I felt they were ready for it. I was more
effective this year as witnessed by the improved evaluation scores from
The bottom line
lesson is that we have to listen to clues (some subtle, some not) that
our customers are giving in order to deliver our good or service in
an effective way.