Why I encourage my crew to fail
Failure is one of those terms that makes people anxious, but at finder, it’s in the veins of our business and something I openly encourage among our team.
The simple reason is this; failure leads to learning, and learning leads to growth. Without failure, you cannot grow.
What I submit to our team is to fail fast, learn and move on. It’s not about whether you’ve failed, it’s about how you deal with failure. Do you get up? Do you learn and keep moving forward? Or do you fall down and stick your head in the sand? For me, failure is a part of life. It’s about getting out there and having a go. So, I give our team an open invitation to fail every single day.
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When it comes to risk-taking, I encourage our crew to explore two-way door decisions. The one-way versus two-way door decision is a leadership theory championed by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos (also known as “type 1” and “type 2” decisions). With one-way door decisions, you walk through, but if the grass isn’t greener on the other side, you can’t come back from it. They’re not reversible. But with two-way door decisions, you can walk straight back and revert to the original state if you don’t like what you see.
If anyone is facing tough decisions, I ask them to talk me through three possible scenarios. I get people to describe the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario and a really weird scenario, which is basically something unexpected that could happen as a result of the decision.
Stepping into these scenarios allows the human mind to make an informed decision about whether the risk is worth taking. It’s not enough to simply list pros and cons where each benefit or risk is valued with the same weighting. Contextualising the scenarios back to the decision you’re trying to make will help you achieve the best outcome, and this is something I encourage our crew to do.
When we first opened our New York office in 2016, we all sat down and I said to the crew, “Guys, before we begin, I want you to understand something; it’s okay to make mistakes. I want you to go out there, make mistakes and bring them back”.
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It’s this open dialogue and attitude that has formed the nucleus of the entire company and has created an environment where everyone has a licence to innovate and challenge themselves.
We’re always trying new things. We’ll try a new piece of software or a new technology that will automate a process. Making mistakes allows you to grow and to learn, and this has been super effective for us.
Personally, I’m always falling over and hurting myself. When I don’t achieve what I set out to do, I’ll fall over and then I’ll correct myself. And it’s this correction that fosters growth. Having tough conversations and taking risks can be painful, but if you want to grow both in business and in life, pain is the best signal that you’re moving forward. If you don’t have pain, you’re not growing.
I allow people to take the driver’s seat on projects, and even if I think they’ve misjudged the direction, I let them move into this lane so they can learn from it. You need to give your crew the rope to lead the way so they can either do two things: steer the ship and lead, or get tangled up.
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Our “Go live” company value is a big part of welcoming errors. It’s all about putting things live on the Internet, innovating and getting things done. It’s a core value that has served us well, but it has also put us on a continuous quest for improvement. When we first started out, we didn’t think we’d need global infrastructure, but as the business has grown, we’ve had to rebuild our product data system to support multiple countries. We needed to adapt and become faster at doing things, so we had to build it again and again.
Trust is key to encouraging mistakes. I trust our crew and I also believe they put trust in me by knowing they can come to me and fess up to a mistake, and know I’ll be okay with it. And I think that’s pretty unique.
If you want to stay relevant, my contention is you need to create a space where your crew can fail. Putting measures in place to mitigate risk will be key, but having a team that’s not afraid to challenge the status quo will outperform a team that follows the rule book any day of the week.
Fred Schebesta, Co-founder of finder.com.au, finder.com and HiveEx.com
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