On a wall inside the Portland headquarters of Wieden+Kennedy, some 119,000 plastic push pins spell out two words that aren’t often paired together: Fail Harder.
Most companies don’t inspire their employees in such a way, but not many companies are like W+K. It’s the agency’s creativity and unorthodox approach to advertising that has landed clients like Coca-Cola, Nike, Chrysler, and Facebook.
How does failing harder equal success? The answer in explained in a 2013 Ad Age article:
Dan Wieden remembers the moment in his life that he stopped being afraid of failure.
It was early in his career and he had tried for five years to get kicked out of Georgia-Pacific, the conservative paper-products company. When they finally obliged, he said he felt like his life had collapsed.
He recalls sitting in his car in the parking lot afterward, being ashamed that he had worked so hard to create problems in a company he wanted to leave because he didn’t have the guts to make that choice himself. He had two kids and one more on the way and thought, what have I done? “I felt worthless and professionally embarrassed,” he said.
When he went home and faced his wife, who was in the middle of folding diapers, she looked up and said, “Well, something will turn up.”
Those five words changed his life, he said, giving him permission to fail.
Wieden eventually started his own company, and the rest is history. He encourages employees to take big risks — which can lead to big failures, and sometimes, big victories. It’s a creative and daring approach.
Does your boss expect the same of you? If you have employees, do you encourage them to try harder, even if it means failing harder too? If your answer is ‘no’, you’re not alone. Many companies struggle to meet the bottom line, let alone encouraging and enduring efforts that may ultimately cost more than they produce. But it’s this spirit of innovation that keeps successful companies one step ahead. Here’s another great example in the New York Times, which notes: “The path to any success is lined with disasters.” Whether big or small, trial and error is essential to any successful business.
If you have any stories to share about failures and innovation, please share them!