HR Opinion: Reward for failure???

9 Nov
by Suzie Business Owner & Senior HRBP

Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots for Google X is quoted as follows:

“You must reward people for failing, he says. If not, they won’t take risks and make breakthroughs. If you don’t reward failure, people will hang on to a doomed idea for fear of the consequences. That wastes time and saps an organisation’s spirit.”*

I think that this would scare the pants of any manager or business owner without huge amounts of budget to burn and a clear mission of moon shots as their purpose.

We can reward people who “fail” at a project or don’t succeed in a development because it is about what we learn along the way that is the really important bit.

What about us “Normies”?

So how do we do this in a “normal” business (one without Google budgets and cool culture and jargon to match it).  In any project or new venture we should be carefully scoping out what we intend to achieve or solve.  We keep an eye on what is happening and measure as we go along.  When we finally give up on a particular line of thinking or development, we should carry out a complete “wash-up” session.

A wash-up session is work shopping the whole project, the successes, failures, the stuff that was exciting, the stuff that wasn’t, the whopping mistakes and the general “ah-ha” or “whoops” moments.

Through this process we learn.  Then we apply those learnings to other projects or business processes or products. Business can avoid seeing the termination of a project as a negative but celebrate it for the stuff we did do and learn.  The business culture that blames great people for a perceived failure are missing opportunity.

Those who are part of those learnt moments should be those who are rewarded.  The reward can be calibrated according to the level of personal involvement and the potential impact of the discovery.

As they say…  It is not about the destination, but the journey.

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