How to Succeed from Failure

It’s a new year and that means you can make a fresh start, have a clean slate and take a new approach to running your news operation.

You may have had some initiatives or projects that didn’t work out or were a complete failure in 2012. It’s not time to think that the failure is it and that it’s time to pack the bags. It’s time to think quite the opposite.

There is a lot that can be learned from those projects or initiatives that failed. We have a few tips to help you in taking a different approach and how to succeed from those failures in 2013.

Constructive or Defensive Strategy

First, it’s important to recognize that the daily decisions you are making may be constructive or defensive for your news operation and that can impact how your operation moves forward or backward.

In a recent book chapter I wrote in Newsroom Decision-Making: Under New Management, an edited work by Associate Professor George Sylvie at the University of Texas at Austin, I explain a constructive or defensive strategy can lead the news organization on the path toward success or catch-up.

“The defensive strategy can be defined as those managers who react to the changes versus those a step ahead of the game...The stakes are high in this mode, where innovations must succeed and there is no room for failure. In addition, this strategy focuses on maximizing production via efficiency and outsourcing when possible because of its economic mandate of doing more with less to make a profit or just maintain the status quo.”

We have seen many news organizations fall into this defensive strategy by peer pressure from the competition with an all-or-nothing approach to projects that can be detrimental to the organization in the long run.

On the other hand, the constructive strategy focuses on how managers need to proactively think of the next change or innovation they need to make.

“Creativity is the main goal and identifying contributions and improvements are characteristics sought in the innovations adopted. It can be inferred that risk is needed, failure is okay, and trying over and over again is welcomed. The focus is on doing less, and more on identifying a niche to perfect.”

The constructive strategy allows for the failures to occur but the key point is making sure that those failures are learning experiences that bring the organization to its next step toward perfecting what it can do best.

Embracing Failure, Taking Smarter Risks

As Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen state in the book, The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, “by embracing failure as a vehicle for learning, innovative companies embolden their employees to try new things.”

Part of this process of learning from failure entails taking risks to pursue innovation and change, but making sure those risks are smart risks.

Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen state that smart risks are, “hiring and developing discovery-driven people and institutionalizing processes that supports people’s questioning, observing, networking, experimenting, and associating.”

To help recognize if your organization is taking smart risks, Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen provide a list of questions in the book:

  • Does your organization encourage people to take risks in order to learn from them?
  • Does your organization reward people for learning from failures? Or is punishment its default response?
  • Can you name at least one successful innovation when your company celebrated learning from at least one failure to make the innovation ultimately work?
  • Has your company built a higher-than-average discovery quotient in its people to ensure against the inherent risks of disruptive innovation?
  • Do your company’s top managers understand that they need to take risks and fail frequently in order to innovate?

Answering each of these questions can help you to see exactly how you and your staff have handled past failures and if you are engaging in smart risks. If you are not taking smart risks, 2013 may be the time to consider doing so as you revisit the failed projects and initiatives from last year.

Ecosystem Mindset

Another approach to take in moving forward from the failures of the past toward success can also come in the form creating a different kind of mindset.

Associate Professor and Media Management Scholar George Sylvie explains in the Newsroom Decision-Making: Under New Management book that news managers can utilize an ecosystemic perspective to decision-making.

This ecosystemic perspective entails how much the news operation can rely on networks. Networks can include the different kinds of audiences you serve, your board members, donors, other news organizations you collaborate with on news projects, and so forth.  These networks all play a role in the ecosystem in which your news organization is a part of.  Harnessing those networks and nurturing the creativity, collaboration and knowledge-building facets among your staff and your networks, can make a difference when it comes to the long-term and short-term decisions that are made.

This perspective entails a different mindset of viewing the news operation as one part of a bigger network in which aspects of autonomy and collaboration are extended beyond the newsroom walls, and where the value of knowledge and creativity are embraced. Thus, smarter risks can be made as a result.

The new year presents an opportunity for you and your staff to revisit what worked and didn't work last year. It's only by seeing what has failed can you and your staff know where to improve and how to get better. Implementing new decision-making skills, strategies and mindsets may be one route to helping your news operation thrive and succeed in 2013.

Photo Credit: FutUndBeidl via photopin cc

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