Is failure a necessary step towards success and, if so, how can businesses incorporate failure as part of their corporate culture?

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Phillip Luff
Television and entertainment specialist, former SVP Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.

Is failure a necessary step towards success and, if so, how can businesses incorporate failure as part of their corporate culture?

VocL Voices’ Responses

Vincent Egunlae
Investment Banking Analyst, Houlihan Lokey

Failure isn’t the necessary step toward success. One can fail and continue to do so again and again. What is necessary for success is not failure, it is learning from failure. Corporates that punish all failure and reward all success miss an important part of the journey that creates leaders. Businesses can incorporate failure into their corporate culture by rewarding the behaviours that will lead to success, rather than rewarding outcomes only.

Fhaheen Khan
Senior Economist, Make UK

Failure should be seen as a positive action that brings people closer to their goals. Even the light bulb went through over 2000 prototypes before giving light to society. Learning from failure is a natural human instinct instilled into us from birth, from learning how to walk to when we start applying for jobs as graduates. Each attempt at trying something new, and indeed trying again when we fail, shapes us into wiser individuals. However, in some instances the developed world has come to fear failure for its costs rather than embracing failure for its benefits leading many to shy away from experimentation and innovation. Managers should recognise if their team culture fosters an environment that encourages people to try new ideas. For example, by sharing stories from senior management about how failure helped them achieve their goals which would encourage younger people to be more adventurous themselves.

Glenn Bills
Business Development Director, Gripple

Failure should be seen as an essential aspect of business, and it is critical that businesses don’t seek too hard to avoid it. Overcaution and “analysis paralysis” can jeopardise or limit the level of actual success in my experience, particularly in areas such as new product or business development. There is so much to be learned from not quite achieving what you set out to, or having to adjust and adapt in real time. The knowledge and the experience from that is a key contributor to increasing the likelihood of success in the future. Whilst I don’t believe that failure is a necessity towards achieving success, the learned experiences certainly make those wins a little bit sweeter!

Charlotte Hill
Operations Director, Gripple

Failure in business is often seen as a setback, yet those that dare to innovate can capture untapped market segments to gain competitive advantage. On both individual and organisational levels, failures provide critical insights into what does or does not work. By understanding these missteps, businesses can refine their strategies. However, it’s crucial that the risks are strategic and purposeful, not reckless. Businesses must clearly define the boundaries of acceptable risks – the health & safety of people or risks that compromise the organisations core values, should be non-negotiable.

Andrew Gall
Head of Savings & Economics, Building Societies Association

We shouldn’t aim to fail, but instead be curious, prepared to take some risks and be ready to learn. A culture that supports this, without blame, can lead to increased knowledge and new opportunities.

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