What I learned from just one failure

Ideas can fail for a number of reasons.

Early on in my career I was working for a small charity as a trusts and foundations fundraiser. But I really wanted to be an events fundraiser.

When I was little, I LOVED watching a programme called ‘Now Get Out of That.’ It was an early version of reality television. It followed two teams as they went through a series of obstacles themed around a top-secret mission.

Each secret mission was designed to challenge a team’s critical thinking, problem solving and physical abilities.

I loved it so much.

I thought it would be a great idea for a charity fundraising event. I honestly can’t remember how it came about but somehow I met the designer of the ‘Now Get Out of That’ challenges and pitched the idea of working on a charity fundraising event to him. He said yes!

I persuaded my manager that this was a good idea. They reluctantly said yes, so I got busy planning, writing emails and negotiating with the printers for some discounted leaflets.

When we launched no one signed up. It was a failure.

I learned a lot.

  • Understand what your audience needs and wants and develop an offering to meet that. What you love and what your audience loves are usually two completely different things.
  • Ideas can fail for a number of reasons. Perhaps it was a good idea but the marketing and messaging didn’t connect with the audience. I didn’t explore that. I just shoved it under the carpet because it failed.
  • Spend some time figuring out why your idea failed. This will minimise the chances of you failing in the same way again.
  • Minimise your risk. We hadn’t committed any money on this (apart from my time). When no one signed up we decided not to go ahead. Testing something by telling people about the event and asking interested people to join a waiting list to gauge real interest can be a low risk way of testing an idea.
  • And I still love my idea. Even though it failed. Find critical friends who are not in love with your idea to bring some objective thinking into the mix.

Learning from failure is an important innovation skill. Building a team environment where testing and learning is encouraged and where people feel safe to try out new ideas and concepts helps the whole team to develop and move forward.

If you’d like to delve deeper into learning from failure and create a work environment where everyone can learn from failure join drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk. 

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