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    Failing Well with professor of leadership Dr. Amy Edmondson

    enSeptember 19, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Productive vs Embarrassing FailuresEmbrace productive failures as opportunities for growth, and recognize the difference between them and embarrassing ones.

      Not all failures are created equal. While some failures can be embarrassing or even shameful, others can be productive and lead to new discoveries and progress. Professor Amy Edmonson, an expert on the subject, emphasizes the importance of recognizing this distinction and embracing the productive failures as opportunities for growth. The 2024 Black Effect Podcast Festival in Atlanta, hosted by Nissan, offers a chance to pitch your dream podcast and potentially turn a failure into a success. Meanwhile, organizations like Road Scholar provide opportunities for adults to learn and explore new places, allowing for personal growth and discovery. Sacramento invites visitors to shake up their routines and try new experiences, while the fear of failure can be confronted by understanding that it's a natural part of life and that productive failures can lead to success.

    • Embracing Failure for InnovationShifting mindset towards viewing failures as opportunities for growth can lead to a more open and collaborative work environment, fostering innovation and competitiveness.

      The way we perceive and handle failure can significantly impact our ability to innovate. The word "failure" encompasses a wide range of experiences, from honest mistakes to unintended discoveries. Companies like 3M have shown that embracing failures and sharing learnings from them can lead to groundbreaking innovations. However, human nature often makes us more inclined towards success and avoiding failure. To foster a culture of innovation, organizations need to shift their mindset towards viewing failures as opportunities for growth rather than setbacks. Embracing this perspective can lead to a more open and collaborative work environment, where employees feel encouraged to experiment and learn from their mistakes. Ultimately, the ability to embrace failure is a crucial factor in driving innovation and staying competitive in today's rapidly changing business landscape.

    • Embracing Fallibility for InnovationSuccessful companies create environments that override human nature's fear of failure and encourage innovation through psychological safety and confidence in mistakes.

      Organizations and human nature are not naturally set up to encourage innovation due to the desire for approval and fear of failure. However, successful innovative companies like 3M recognize this and create systems and structures that override this default state. Confidence plays a crucial role in innovation, and owning our mistakes with confidence can inspire others and lead to psychological safety within a team. It's essential to acknowledge our fallibility as human beings and embrace the idea that it's okay to make mistakes and try again. The people we want to follow are those who can admit their shortcomings and create a safe environment for taking risks. Confidence in failure is not about being fearless but rather about accepting our fallibility and moving forward with resilience.

    • Psychological safety: Building trust and fostering positive team dynamicsLeaders offering psychological safety create an environment of trust and focus on collective goals, while the lack of it can lead to less trustworthiness and uncomfortable team dynamics. Focusing on problems rather than blame helps teams learn and grow together.

      Psychological safety within a team is crucial for building trust and fostering a positive interpersonal climate. It's not just an individual or organizational issue, but rather an emergent property of a group. When team psychological safety is offered, primarily the responsibility of leaders, it creates an environment where individuals feel supported and can focus on the collective goals rather than worrying about themselves. The lack of psychological safety, on the other hand, can lead to less trustworthiness and a more uncomfortable, less productive team dynamic. The question "what happened?" is a powerful tool in understanding the root cause of issues and improving safety practices. By focusing on the problem rather than assigning blame, teams can learn and grow together. Leaders who offer psychological safety act as a parent would, acknowledging that there is a problem rather than pointing fingers. This foundation of trust and safety is essential for the success of any business or team.

    • Nissan's Thrill of Possibility Summit and Pitch Your Podcast Lounge at 2024 Black Effect Podcast FestivalEmpowering the next generation involves creating valuable experiences, fostering open communication, and providing opportunities for growth.

      Supporting and empowering the next generation goes hand in hand with creating exciting experiences. This was highlighted during the 2024 Black Effect Podcast Festival, where Nissan's Thrill of Possibility Summit provided valuable opportunities for HBCU scholars in STEAM fields. Meanwhile, the Pitch Your Podcast Lounge offered a chance for aspiring podcasters to share their ideas. Off the festival grounds, at Barry Wehmiller's factory in Phillips, Wisconsin, it was shown that a strong culture of psychological safety, where people feel comfortable speaking up, leads to greater safety and innovation. Context and understanding the nuances of a situation are crucial in encouraging risk-taking and preventing potential issues. By fostering an environment that values open communication and growth, we can make a positive impact on individuals and communities.

    • Establishing open dialogue in remote teamsRemote teams need deliberate systems, routines, or rituals to encourage open dialogue and maintain psychological safety, preventing potential misunderstandings or insensitive actions.

      Psychological safety is essential for a team, and decision-making should not be an individual effort. Instead, it's a team sport where team members should communicate and consult each other before making significant decisions. Additionally, when dealing with human emotions and uncertain situations, informal check-ins with colleagues can prevent potential misunderstandings or insensitive actions. However, in a distributed workforce, these informal check-ins can be more challenging to initiate, leading to a higher barrier to communication. Preliminary data suggests that psychological safety may take a hit in remote work environments, making it crucial to establish deliberate systems, routines, or rituals to lower the communication hurdle and encourage open dialogue.

    • Building Weak Ties in a Distributed WorkforceInvest in opportunities for employees to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and departments to promote learning, innovation, and inclusivity in a distributed workforce.

      In a distributed workforce, the importance of building and maintaining weak ties for innovation and learning from diverse perspectives has been diminished. According to research, collaborative relationships have shifted towards stronger ties, resulting in fewer interactions with individuals from different backgrounds and departments. This trend restricts diversity and inclusion in organizations, making it more likely for teams to work with like-minded individuals rather than embracing diverse thoughts and ideas. An excellent example of a company that excels at embracing failure and fostering innovation is 3M. Their culture encourages employees to share their successes and failures, creating an environment where learning and experimentation are celebrated. Another example is the Toyota Production System, which focuses on continuous improvement and values employee input to identify potential issues and enhance efficiency. However, in a distributed workforce, the absence of casual, spontaneous interactions can hinder the development of weak ties. To counteract this, organizations should prioritize creating opportunities for employees to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and departments. This could include virtual social events, cross-functional project teams, or mentorship programs. By investing in these initiatives, organizations can promote a culture of learning, innovation, and inclusivity in a distributed workforce.

    • Empowering continuous improvement with the 'Andon cord'The Andon cord symbolizes Toyota's culture of empowering all employees to suggest improvements, leading to significant time and cost savings through continuous learning and improvement.

      The Toyota Production System is more than just a method for efficiency; it's a culture of constant improvement and learning. This is encapsulated by the concept of the "Andon cord," a metaphorical pull cord that allows anyone in the organization to suggest improvements, no matter how small. This approach, rooted in deep respect for employees and their ideas, can lead to significant improvements over time. For instance, a factory worker's suggestion to move a bumper rack just one foot to the left could save seconds on each bumper installation, leading to substantial time and cost savings in the long run. This philosophy, which empowers everyone to think like scientists, has been instrumental in Toyota's success. It's essential to remember that this approach goes beyond efficiency and is about fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

    • Leaders must create a psychologically safe environment for innovation and creativityLeaders should be vulnerable, acknowledge their own fears, and create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their fears, making it easier for everyone to innovate and overcome challenges

      Creating a psychologically safe environment for innovation and creativity requires leaders to be vulnerable and acknowledge their own fears. As Guy Raz shares on his podcast "How I Built This," entrepreneurs face doubts and failures, but it's how they overcome them that leads to success. Similarly, leaders must create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their fears and concerns, rather than facing antagonism. Pixar's Ed Catmull emphasizes the importance of leaders going first in acknowledging mistakes, making it easier for others to do the same. Lionel Richie's experience of overcoming crippling stage fright highlights that fear is a common experience for everyone, and the difference between those who succeed and those who don't is not the absence of fear, but rather the willingness to step forward despite it. Psychological safety and courage are two sides of the same coin, and leaders play a crucial role in fostering both.

    • Focusing on smart failures for experimentationSmaller orgs can foster risk-taking by considering their 'why', identifying essential functions, and experimenting with high-possibility solutions within a defined sandbox.

      Smaller organizations can become more failure-tolerant and encourage experimentation by focusing on smart failures. This means carefully considering the "why" of the organization, identifying what needs to be done well to continue offering value, and running experiments to test possibilities. However, uncertainty can be a major obstacle to taking risks. To address this, it's important to name and acknowledge uncertainty, and work together to come up with high-possibility experiments. The "why" of the organization can serve as a filter and focusing device, creating boundaries for experimentation and helping to avoid shiny object syndrome. Ultimately, the goal is to experiment within a defined sandbox, where anything goes as long as it advances the greater good of the organization.

    • The Fear of Making Mistakes Can Limit Growth and InnovationAcknowledging and addressing fear of making mistakes as a team can encourage learning and risk-taking. Seek support and be honest about shortcomings, and consider personal growth opportunities and investments like a vacation home.

      As individuals climb the corporate ladder, the fear of making mistakes or looking bad can increase, leading to risk aversion. This ironic phenomenon can limit growth and innovation. To combat this, acknowledging and addressing this fear as a team can help encourage a culture of learning and risk-taking for the greater good. Another key takeaway is the importance of being honest about our shortcomings and seeking support when needed, whether that be through mental health resources like BetterHelp or personal growth opportunities like the adventures offered by Road Scholar. Lastly, investing in a vacation home with Picasso can provide a space for personal growth and creating lasting memories with loved ones.

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