I have been looking at the Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility deck recently. They have a very interesting and logical take on the high performing workplace as it relates to business success, market mobility. The idea is that companies that get too bogged down in process lose their creative, and thus innovative, edge. But those that embrace creativity and allow high performers freedom and responsibility thrive in a changing market.
One of my favorite slides (yes I just said that) is about the idea of Rapid Recovery. Rapid Recovery is the idea that we shouldn’t judge people by their mistakes but rather by their ability to recover rapidly from them. When mistakes are made or opportunities unveiled, the best course is to fix the problem quickly or seize the opportunity at hand.
I often say, “no one dies in advertising/communications.” That is to say that we are a creative industry, not, as Netflix puts it, “a safety-critical market like medicine or nuclear power.” Preventing errors rather than having to fix them in safety-critical professions may be necessary, but in creative and inventive markets you need to take risks to see real progress. Risks mean mistakes. Mistakes mean you learn and perhaps invent new ways of doing great work.
And yet it is the rare marketer who is willing to take the risks that reap the big rewards. It is human nature to want to prevent errors, to be cautious and weigh all sides and as a result to be slow to decisions and lose opportunity.
What if instead we started to act in the real world like we do in the digital world – test, learn, optimize. Take the risks and embrace the mistakes and miscalculations. Judge ourselves on our ability to recover with quick judgement and agility. Optimize continuously. Act decisively with creativity and the inventiveness? What if we welcomed breaking the rules in order to learn and invent new things? What happens are things like potato chips, x-rays, Velcro, Post-Its and penicillin – all created by taking risks and embracing mistakes. All things we couldn’t imagine being without.
The test, learn, optimize approach that is the digital norm needs to be in all our marketing and communications. The more freedom and responsibility we give highly effective people to take strategic risks and make smart mistakes, the more interesting and compelling ideas we will invent and the greater attention and behavior change we will inspire for our brands. Embrace trial and embrace error. Reward the person who is willing to take risks and who not only recovers from mistakes with agility but uses their mistakes to invent the next big thing.