You may be familiar with the statistic that 90% of tech startups ultimately fail.
It is an unfortunate truth and reflects the harsh realities of getting a new idea off the ground and launching a new business essentially from scratch.
So if becoming successful is so hard for tech startups, the idea of adopting a “failure culture” might seem strange… Why embrace failure when it’s already hard enough to succeed?
We explore what failure culture really means and how startups can use it to great advantage.
What is a failure culture and who are the big names that follow suit?
Failure culture is a collective company mindset that gives staff the freedom to take calculated risks and strive to be innovative. It’s not about patting people on the back for not achieving a goal - it’s about creating a culture that provides the feedback that means the next goal can be achieved.
For startups, this is important because you need your team to be innovative and to dare to be different.
If you think about what a tech startup is, it's a company trying to do something that no other company has done before it. Therefore it’s paramount that your team is unafraid to make mistakes trying to get there.
There are many examples of successful startups that failed before they ever succeeded. This includes such major successes as Amazon, LinkedIn, and Canva.
Now successful tech giant, Amazon, made many mistakes along the way. At one stage they had to give away 50 million free toys as they had vastly overestimated that year’s Christmas demand for its stocked products.
LinkedIn started out as a failed social and dating platform called SocialNet.
And while never technically failing, Melanie Perkins, the co-founder of the graphic design platform Canva, had to endure being told “no” more than 100 times before she secured the funding needed to launch Canva.
How to use failure culture to your advantage.
- Embrace resilience and the ability to bounce back.
Don’t glorify mistakes or errors but work to establish a culture that cultivates the ability in individuals and teams to adapt and learn from them.
- Accept the difficulty in understanding market needs and demands.
More than 40% of startups fail due to a lack of market needs for their product. Failure is the ultimate test of evaluating and determining real-world demand for a particular product at a particular time.
Encourage real innovation.
By definition, being innovative means doing something other people haven’t tried or already think won’t work. And in many instances, that means it won’t work for your company either… But you will never know unless you try it.
So encourage employees to be innovative in their thinking and promote turning great ideas into real tech products and services.
It’s also important to remember that establishing an innovative culture is more than just encouraging people to think big, you need to create real opportunities.
One way of doing this is by giving team members stretch assignments that encourage them to work beyond their core role and outside of their comfort zone.
- Make people familiar with asking for feedback.
Embracing a failure culture normalises the process of asking for and receiving feedback.
It's important that this feedback is positive and constructive but the importance of feedback cannot be overstated. It plays a vital role in improving individual and team performance that turns iterative improvements into lasting success.
It is always difficult in the short term but remember that the biggest failures will actually take you further than the small successes. It’s how you manage failure that is the real trick.
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Why didn’t it work?
By consistently focusing on the lessons that can be taken from small failures, it becomes possible to put your startup on the right path to achieve it’s long term, larger goals.
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