Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

For organizations pursuing complacency, the fastest path there is to not try anything different and do all you can to avoid failure.  Often innovators are accused of misbehaving, “breaking the rules” or “trying to beat the system”.  It disappoints me that such short-sighted views are taken with those trying to do something out of the norm or create a viable solution to a shared problem.  As a nonprofit, aren’t we there to serve our community?  What system is there to break?  One of my weaknesses is not broadcasting our ideas, I perform poorly at the marketing/pitch, far better at the conception and execution, hence I’m usually “caught” doing great stuff because I didn’t tell anyone.  A key reason I’m learning how to be granted permission to fail.

Align with Organization’s Goals & Objectives
It is imperative that we embrace our organization’s mission, goals and objectives.  The c-suite will not sign-off on any innovative idea that falls outside of its goals.  Think out-of-the-box but under the organization umbrella.

Determine the Acceptable
This brilliant blog post 3-Stage Goals by Tamsen McMahon is a must read.  Tamsen and her Brass Tack Thinking partner Amber often express in words what I’m thinking.  An important step in obtaining permission to fail is to determine the acceptable.

Learning as an Asset
Often when pursuing a new venture or initiative the focus is on the end results.  As a kid I can recall my father being excited to be working at a “teaching hospital”.  As leaders, only we can turn our organizations into “learning organizations” and embrace learning as an asset.

Show Some Shoulder (ROI)
ROI (return on investment) is sexy and it really, really sells.  In light of the current economy, be sure to include tangible, achievable and acceptable return on the initiative.  Money matters.

Create Milestones
Predetermined milestones are great for planning, reporting and adapting.  Communicating progress or lack there of as the project evolves provides an opportunity to make adjustments, acknowledge learning and grow support and advocacy.

Showcase Case Studies (of failure?)
Case studies are often the vehicle for sharing best practices or success (professional bragging rights), the more competent case studies will share what was learned and what the leaders would have done differently.  If there is a case study related to your project, study them, cite them, share them and learn from them as the project grows.  It’s also nice to share your own, even if it’s an executive summary.

Include Others
I admire the crazy thinkers, the mavericks and those creating paradigm shifting products, programs and initiatives.  Note that they rarely work alone.  Be sure to include others, seek out those who have a passion for your program or those it may serve.  Internal, external, across and through your organization — find them and engage them.

Certainly not an exhaustive list of strategies in securing permission to fail and I’d love to hear what you would add.  Organizations are not people, they relish complacency and it takes the courage of the people within them to seek change, innovation and growth.

Permission to fail is permission to succeed




Obsolescence can be a sad and difficult journey.  I recently read that the generation being born now may never know a dial tone.  In 1888, Almon B. Strowger conceived an idea for an automatic phone exchange which resulted in the dial tone.  122 years or so is a good run, particularly for the by-product of an invention.  Obsolescence can also be the path to progress, met with cheers and adulation.

Some measures count but do they really matter?
I am quite certain we can sit for hours, listen to some 8 track tapes and create a list of all the things we’d wish would become obsolete.  Near the top of my list would be useless reports.  You know, the ones that take hours to complete and seconds to ignore.  Interestingly, we find it far easier to add on more reports or measures than to take the useless ones away.  A friend in another industry recently shared: “taking a useless report away from a vice president is like taking the pacifier away from my infant daughter – not a pretty sight.”

Before creating a new report, measure or metric I now ask the question:  This will help us better serve (members, community, staff, donors, partners) how? No fancy decision tree, I guess you’d call it a decision root or trunk.

Have any useless reports or measures?  If a report becomes obsolete does it make a sound (or do we)?  Any helpful tips in how to push the useless into obsolescence?

I had the honor of interviewing Tyler Ridings. Tyler is the 18 year old founder of The Tune Vault (, an online music and media back-up service for iphones and ipods. Inspired by his loss of over $600 in lost music on an ipod, The Tune Vault is a fast growing service for those of us with ipod stories. My ipods have hit treadmill belts (running at 5 mph), fallen when entering an aircraft — that little space between the plane and gate and you can see the tarmac, left in the Arizona sun (note to Steve Jobs – they melt), and run over by an ATV.

Tyler and I literally met through twitter. He has quickly become an inspiration — a young man with an idea and executing it with all his passion and energy. It was only fitting that we attempted to do the interview on twitter through a service called Tweeterview ( It was not without its challenges, however, Tyler delivered.

The link can be found here: Mike & Tyler Tweeterview

Enjoy and be sure to connect with Tyler on Twitter at @TylerRidings

Be remarkable, not replaceable — as Tyler shows us the path.