Fail fast = learn fast.

The smartest people I know deliberately try to “break” their new ideas, or make them fail as quickly as possible… so that they can learn from the mistakes & optimize their ultimate results. 

They purposely create environments where they can quickly learn through rapid iteration: they may test ideas with customer advisory groups, or better yet actually run a new process with pilot groups.  Some use inexpensive prototypes for experimentation, allowing dozens of failures without incurring the high cost of full production.  You get the idea.

(Sidebar: Make sure to structure these experiments using the scientific method, rather than just shooting from the hip.  For more on this, I recommend you read Steve Spear – process improvement wizard, author, 5-time Shingo winner, consultant, and [disclaimer] a personal advisor.)

Key to this approach is a fundamental mindset question: How do you feel about failing?  Years of schooling & the conditioning of early career success may have you thinking you are supposed to “always know the right answer…” but let’s be honest: that’s statistically impossible.  We must get comfortable with admitting to the unknown, because this puts us into the “learning zone” and sets the right example for our teams.

Failure is tremendously helpful as long as it leads to accelerated learning.  Can you change your mindset about failure?

Leaders: Change Your Mindset

Leaders: you have to have the right mindset.  If you don’t, then it’s unlikely that you will be able to effectively lead for the long term.

This applies equally to your personal life & your professional life!  

  • Start by getting clear on what mindset you want to have.  Think about it.  Write it down.  Borrow the points from my last post on mindset if you want somewhere to start (like everything else in life, if you don’t have a target for this, then you can’t know how you’re progressing).
  • Self-assess.  How does your mindset today align to your aspired mindset?  What would other people say about your mindset based on your words & behaviors when they are around you?  Are you role-modeling the mindset that you want your team members to have?
  • Change your mind(set).   In the end, the only person who can change your mindset is… you.   And the way you change it is simple: you make a decision that you want to be different.  If you’re feeling brave, share your goals with someone important to you that you trust: a team member, a boss, a close personal friend, a spouse?

There are no pre-requisites for growth… meaning: you can start doing this right now.

Mindset for Leaders

(Warning: I will camp on this topic because of its importance!)

I want to suggest that the most critical input leaders have is our own mindset.  Recently I asked a group of emerging leaders what they thought mindset was.  Their answers: “attitude, beliefs, values, viewpoints, inclination, disposition, habits.” That’s a pretty good definition.

I will suggest that your mindset will pre-determine your response to & interpretation of every situation.  Only you can decide what mindset you should have… But I’ll share with you the mindset aspirations that I’ve developed over time based on observation of other successful leaders:

> Believe you have significant impact on your success… don’t be a victim
> Go for “gold” results… don’t settle for bronze or silver
> Help the bigger team win… not just your own area
> Have confidence… get comfortable being vulnerable to the unknown
> Relish learning, don’t fear it… that’s how we get better
> Never get set in your ways or “hard-wired”… must remain open to growth
> Have courage to make qualitative judgment calls – you’re never going to have perfect info!

More to come on mindset…