How to fail like Steve Jobs
Creativity - new competition collateral
When’s the last time you made a mistake at work? I mean an actual mistake of commission and not omission. A misstep because you tried something new, something innovative, and didn’t just follow the pack or old way of tackling new problems? If fear of failure is part of your career DNA, perhaps taking a look at creativity as a method of competing to win and overcoming your fear of failure may just do the trick.
If you remember the story of the genesis of Apple computer, you may recall Apple’s flop the “Lisa”. Now Lisa failed brilliantly for a host of reasons, but the key is what it was intended to be. Jobs had a vision for a machine to change the world…..again. After the many failures, the real win was the refocused efforts that followed and resulted in the first Macintosh. The rest is history and the stuff of well-deserved legend (he says as he types on his MacBook Air).
The secret Jobs knew way back then is there’s a new competition collateral and its intelligence expressed through innovation and creativity. This means addressing what you bring to the table; how you think outside the box to help your organization thrive and lead in the marketplace. Even how your creative solutions may change the world. It’s a new model in competition to achieve success—overcoming your fear of failure to contribute creatively to success.
It is no wonder why Jobs’ Apple or Google and others foster competition among employees and creativity as critical employee characteristics. Not too long ago, Google even posted a billboard outside of its one-time rival Yahoo with an equation to solve by applicants interested in jumping ship. While this tactic clearly tested intellect, it was a creative conversation it initiated as a way of engaging candidates in an interesting way. And on their commute no less!
Do mega-corporations want smart people? Of course they do. But they and smaller organizations need creativity even more so, because they know thinkers and not robots make the biggest differences within their employee portfolio. They understand problems are better solved, not when all in the room agree, but when there is heterogeneity within their ranks. The data proves over and over those groups offering the best solutions are found to be those showing diversity in thinking. Creativity within a loose corporate framework may provide a logical direction when it comes to problem solving with the corporate milieu.
There is, in many organizations, a consensus driven non-creative bias. These organizations are designed for efficiency and productivity, where process takes priority. To resist the pull of this bias, I often share what has helped me, the advice I received earlier in my career, when I thought success depended on conformity and compliance.
Shortly after taking on a new role, where I was playing by the rules and felt I was meeting or exceeding expectations, I received one of the best pieces of advice ever. “You really haven’t messed up yet! If all you do is follow the rules and you don’t try anything new or out of the box, you will never do anything great.”
All the things I had learned had programmed me to think my success was tied not to doing something creative or great, it was linked most directly to following the rules and not messing up. It was like playing football— keeping my defense back near the goal the whole game. They could be helping score; helping to create plays, but I was leaving them back to be sure I didn’t fail.
And though taking creative risks, being innovative, and really trusting others to be on board with new ideas so the great things can be accomplished is scary and hasn’t always worked out, I know failing is a part of learning and I want to fail like Steve Jobs.