Afraid of failing? That’s why we need to cultivate a fail fast culture

Afraid of failing? That’s why we need to cultivate a fail fast culture

What does it mean to cultivate a fail fast culture? 

What does it mean to cultivate a fail fast culture? 

by Janet Sernack 26/11/2018

I recently met with a client, who was seeking our ideas, information and input towards what might be involved in cultivating a fail fast organizational culture. It was an interesting discovery conversation, causing me to explore what needs to be in place to create permission, vulnerability, safety, courage and trust for the deep learning’s that mistakes and failure provide in advancing creativity, invention and innovation.

How could developing a fail fast culture help organizations unfreeze, survive, flow and flourish with the current levels of fear, ambiguity, uncertainty, volatility and instability in 21st century organizations?


What does fail fast mean in its original context?

In software development, the intention is to discover and detect where a potential problem might occur in the overall process, to speed it up and minimise time and costs. The focus is on iterating and steering the project to success as it develops, rather than creating a lot of software before showing it to the end user – to minimize the risks involved in their acceptance of it. This enables developers to test their products and get immediate customer feedback, to ensure that what is being developed is in tune, and aligned with what customer’s think they might want, or want.

How can failure be perceived as feedback and learning?

Working this way teaches people the value of developing customer intimacy and an empathic understanding as to what constitutes value in their eyes. It is an ongoing learning process where feedback, whether positive or negative, enables people to adapt, respond and improve quickly.

Learning from this agile way of working, it is one way of taking the “emotional heat” out of “failure” as an emotional reaction, a visceral experience and perpetration against someone.

There is an opportunity to potentially reframe failure as “feedback” and as a “learning process.” To enable people and organizations to iterate, pivot and continuously improve through intentional behaviour, system and artefact changes – in ways that provide increased value that people, and customers appreciate and cherish.

What gets in the way of people applying this rationale?

Growing up in western civil societies and school systems, we learn to see failure as a mistake, as a shortcoming, stupidity or imperfection that we are responsible for and ashamed about.

We often feel that we must make excuses about it and apologise for it. In fact, we live in world where governments fail, relationships fail, businesses fail – so none of these failures are a cause for celebration, they are merely signs of ideas in progress.

According to Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation; “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are the inevitable consequence of doing something new (and as such, should be valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).”


• Visceral reactions to failure

When we fail, we unconsciously sink into a series of reactive responses, that engage us neurologically and emotionally resulting in a range of irrational cognitive (thinking and feeling) distortions, which usually involves disappointment, confusion and shame.

We then move away from and avoid solving the problem because of these pervasive un-resourceful states and act defensively, which usually involves laying blame, making justifications, excuses, and operating from denial.

People then move away from and avoid solving the problem because of these pervasive un-resourceful states and act defensively, which usually involves laying blame, making justifications, excuses, and operating from denial as illustrated below in Diagram 1.

People then move away from and avoid solving the problem because of these pervasive un-resourceful states and act defensively, which usually involves laying blame, making justifications, excuses, and operating from denial.

This is often a very useful iterative process, and according to Ed Catmull, who has failed more times than we can imagine, it’s important; “To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.”


• Be-ing wrong and judged

When we are made to feel (by our own internal processing or externally by others) “wrong” we know that we both self-judge and that others will make a judgement about us. Many of us are concerned about how others see and approve of us, and like to compare ourselves to, and please others.

When we find ourselves being judged in this way, especially for making any kind of mistake, that people make unfair and often generalized and distorted assessment of us and then delete all our other abilities.

Being judged questions and invalidates our competence “I/you screwed up” voids our confidence “I/you just don’t have it in me/ you” and minimizes our capacity to successfully complete the job or task at hand “I/you am/are a wimp”.


• Be-coming the failure

This affects us deeply and in effect, we “be-come” the failure, feel violated, disappointed ashamed and fearful of its punitive consequences; being fired, disregarded for promotions and special projects or being required to take the blame and “fall on your sword”.


How can we start to allow failure to be-come the “norm”?

As Ed Catmull says; “If you create a fearless culture (or as fearless as human nature will allow) people will be much less hesitant to explore new areas, identifying unchartered pathways and then charging down them. They will also begin to see the upside of decisiveness; The time they’ve saved by not gnashing their teeth about whether they’re on the right course comes in handy when they hit a dead end and need to reboot.”


• Be-ing strategic and systemic

Creating this type of culture requires boldness, courage, commitment and determination by the Board and the Executive Team to frame and lead the way forwards, and push the envelope towards the desired positive future state. At Pixar, “failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration” in fact, “if you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: you are being driven by a desire to avoid it/ And for leaders, especially, this strategy-trying to avoid failure by outthinking it- dooms you to fail”.

• Be-ing purposeful and meaningful

It involves investing in a longer term, strategic and systemic perspective of the organization, that inspires, motivates and pulls people towards and creatively engages them in co-creating a desirable future and the possibility of making their, and their customers worlds a better place.

• Uncoupling failure The focus is to then be willing to uncouple their own fears of failure and risk adversity, to develop self-awareness and self-mastery to confidently, empathically and authentically lead the desired changes and “create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror” into people’s hearts and minds.

• Learning, teaching and coaching people

It is then possible to teach and coach others how to uncouple their fears towards failure and its negative consequences, to support and enable people to “normalize” failure by;

Developing tolerance to surprises and problems and shift the way people think and feel about pushing the envelope, making changes and taking smart risks.

• Cultivating the generative discovery skillset that sees, responds to and solves problems by being empowering and enabling people to be, think and act differently.

• Support them to recover, renew and replenish their hearts and minds when they make mistakes and fail when learning how to shift the business game.

Doing this builds people’s trust, receptivity, curiosity, participation towards taking responsibility for developing a “fail fast” culture and the innovation agility to birth it, operate and sustain it successfully.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting January 22, 2019:

Contact to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.

Janet Sernack

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Afraid of failing? That’s why we need to cultivate a fail fast culture

How to Write a Great Job Ad? 5 tips that every recruiter should know!

How to Write a Great Job Ad? 

How to Write a Great Job Ad? 

by Anja Zojčeska 19/11/2018

Hiring? Need a job ad that will stand out and capture top talent’s attention? Learn the best tips and tricks on how to write a great job ad!


Why do you need to write a killer job ad?

With unemployment rate lower than ever, there is a fierce competition for a talent in the job market. According to Glassdoor, 76% percent of hiring managers admit that attracting top talent is their greatest challenge.

To win in the war for talent, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors. In order to to stand out among other employers, you need to learn how to write a killer job advert. A killer job advertisement does more than just attracts the attention of your ideal candidates.

A killer job ad will also convince your ideal candidates to apply for your open job positions. It will make them eager to work at your company! Forget about the standard, boring job ads. Let’s learn how to write a job ads that people really want to apply to!


What do candidates want to read in your job ad?

To write a job ad that attract candidates’ attention and makes them want to apply, first you need to understand your candidates’ wants and needs. What is important for candidates? What do candidates really want to read in a job ad?

To find out, Talent Board did a research and asked 95,684 candidates what job-related content do they find most valuable. According to the Talent Board’s North American Candidate Experience Research Report, candidates want to know details about the job duties, salary range and benefits.

A similar research has been performed recently by LinkedIn. LinkedIn created a job ad heatmap which shows what sections of job ads candidate really care about, and which they ignore. The results of their study confirm the findings of Talent Board’s research – when it comes to job descriptions, candidates want to what work they’ll do (job duties) and how much they’ll make (salary and benefits).

Key takeaway? Be transparent and state the salary range in your job ad. It will give you a competitive advantage when trying to attract candidates. It will also prevent you from wasting your time on candidates you can’t afford.


Top 5 tips for writing great job ads

Want to make your job ads irresistible to candidates? Follow these top 5 tips:


Tip #1: Start by defining your ideal job candidate

Before you start writing your job ad, try to imagine your ideal job candidate. Think beyond the standard job description templates which list the job duties and requirements. Think about your ideal candidates interests beyond work, their motivation, lifestyle… Try to picture your ideal candidate as a real person.

Creating and defining your ideal candidate’s profile will help you narrow down your search and target the candidates that will be the best fit not only for your role, but also for your company culture. It will also help you create a job ad that sounds more human and authentic.


Tip #2: Optimize your job ad title

Use your job ad title to communicate the most important job ad information: Job title, level and position. These are three most important self selection criteria candidates first look at to decide if your job ad is worth their time. Make it easy for the right candidates to recognize the right opportunity by addressing them in the title of your job ad.

Although you might be tempted to use a creative job title such as “Marketing ninja” or a “Sales rockstar”, please resist the urge and stick to the terms your ideal candidate would google when looking for a job. In other words, make your job ad titles search network friendly.


Tip #3: Talk to your candidate

Write your job ad in a way you would talk to your friend. Avoid the overly formal tone and ditch writing in the third person. Writing in second person will make your job ad seems more friendly. If you call out the candidate by saying “you”, it will be easier for them to imagine themselves in the role you are offering. Imagine you are having a coffee with your ideal job candidate. How would you present the job you are offering to that specific person? Write it down in a conversational tone. Use these notes as an outline for your job ad!


Tip #4: Sell the job

Your job ad has one final mission: convincing your ideal job candidates to apply to your open job position. To increase the chances of that happening, you need to sell your job. Think about it for a moment. Why would your ideal candidate choose to work for your company instead for some of your competitors?

Formulate an appealing employe value proposition and use it as a magnet for attracting candidates. Make sure your job ad is focused on candidates! Instead of writing about your company and what you are looking for, focus on your candidates and how they can benefit from joining your company and your team.


Tip #5: Turn your job ad into an eye candy

First make your job title reader friendly. Structure the text in a way that makes it easy to read. Use paragraphs, headings, bullet points and bold the important words. Your job ad should contain a lot of white space. Simplify your text and get rid of all phrases and words which are not absolutely necessary. Keep it short and sweet.

Finally, make your job ad visually attractive and appealing by adding an interesting photo or even a video (if possible). Make sure you use photos and videos of your real employees and everyday life in your office. People want to see the faces of their potential future colleagues!


Next step: Promoting your job ad

Now that you’ve written a great job ad, you need to get it in front of your potential candidates’ eyes. Where should you promote your job ad?

When it comes to job posting best practices, you should follow one simple rule: Go wherever your ideal candidate is. What are your ideal candidates’ favorite communication channels and platforms? Which social media network do your ideal candidates prefer? Post your job ads there! Aaaand…that’s a wrap.

Now you know how to write a great job that will stand out and attract the top candidates. So what are you waiting for? Start writing! 🙂

Anja Zojčeska is an HR enthusiast and a Content Marketing Specialist at the recruitment software company TalentLyft. She is curious about the latest marketing trends and passionate about applying them in recruitment.

Anja Zojčeska

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