This week’s post focuses on the closing comment of Chris O’Neil, MD of Goggle Canada, during a panel discussion on Innovation at Salesforce Company Tour: “Innovation is about getting people to learn quickly. That’s what fail fast is all about.” Thoughts on how innovative executives can foster a learn fast approach in their companies.
While at the Salesforce Company Tour this month, I attended a featured breakout session titled Innovation in Canada: Putting Canadian Businesses Online. It was a panel discussion, moderated by Peter Coffee of Salesforce, with three guest speakers: Chris O’Neill, Managing Director, Google Canada; Jordan Banks, Managing Director, Facebook Canada; and Beth Boettcher, Partner Global Saas Practice, Accenture. While the whole session was of interest to me, I want to focus this post on one quote that came at the end when Peter asked the three speakers to sum up a statement that they felt was important about Innovation. Chris O’Neil’s comment was: “Innovation is about getting people to learn quickly. That’s what fail fast is all about.”
What I like about the quote is takes away the buzz word quality of fail fast and gets at the essence of what lean startups are about, which is a build, measure, pivot process. Here are some thoughts on what executives can foster to ensure a successful innovative approach in their companies.
Have processes to manage risk and capital investment
Fail fast is a buzz word term often used when describing startups that take a lean agile approach to development. These companies take a product to market as early as possible – providing quick iterative releases that respond to customer feedback. The purpose is to manage the risk of invested capital because failures are identified faster. Define what success is and have appropriate systems in place to measure it in a timely manner.
Leave Ego at the door
This is a culture that should start at the top as a leadership mantra and then permeate down. Although we want to hire Rock Star talent, make identifying the soft-skill of being able to be objective about your work and appropriately abandon failing projects a part of your hiring process. Allow people to be rewarded for their talents, not just their outputs. As an analogy, I would liken it to modern parenting where we tell children they did a bad thing, rather than that they are bad children.
Innovation should be something the whole company is invested in, not just a specific department
Make sure that you have channels for feedback and ideas from all aspects of your company. You should have innovators in every service layer. It should not just be something that is done by your key development team. Customer facing teams are often the ones who are best apt to hear the feedback from customers.
Learn faster – integrate lessons quickly
Don’t make lesson’s learned something that you do at the end of a project, document and file away on a project server. Put them to use immediately. Foster an ability to talk openly about what is working or not working, while avoiding analysis paralysis. Get to the – what can we do about it going forward – stage quickly by identifying things that you can implement that will ensure forward focus is on what is going well.